July 21, 2016 posted by

Chester, Illinois – home of Popeye – the annual Popeye Picnic (and Lots of Popeye T-shirts)!

Popeye is my favorite cartoon character – and the Fleischer Popeyes are largely responsible for my love of classic animation. The quiet kindness of this gruff character is a duality that I’ve always found fascinating, even as a child- and even though I usually don’t sock things when they don’t work, I do think he’s one of the better cartoon character role models.

I’ve been getting emails asking where I got the Popeye T-shirt in the video we posted a few weeks back.- so here’s some shirts and a little about Chester, Illinois- home of Popeye! For many years, I made the pilgrimage to the little town of Chester, Illinois- the hometown gf cartoonist Elzie Segar, the creator of the Thimble Theatre comic strip and a certain famous one-eyed sailor.


Chester is a tiny town about an hour or so east of St. Louis, Mo- and once a year, the week after Labor day, they hold the ‘Popeye Picnic’. It’s a big event for the little town, but it’s still a ‘small’ event where the residents hold their annual carnival, a parade and other related events. If you’re a Popeye fan, it’s Popeye central for several days, and a good place to meet folks that share a passion for the little sailor. My good friend Lenny Kohl still makes it down each year, and also performs as Bluto on their yearly ‘Radio play’ that happens as part of the annual dinner. When I would come down, we’d projects 16mm Popeye cartoons in the park next to the Opera house.

Mike and Debbie Brooks live in Chester, running ‘Spinach Can Collectables’, a small shop full of Popeye memorabilia- and the home of the Popeye Museum. One of the coolest things about the building is that it’s the town’s old opera house- and where a young Elzie Segar turned the crank on the movie projector for his boss, Bill Schuchert, who served as the model for Wimpy. Both Olive and Popeye are based on real people as well. You can read a little about them here.

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Information about the Popeye Picnic and all the events can found here.

The Spinach Can Collectables website is here.

This site looks very much the same as it did when I started going to the Popeye Picnic in 1994!

It’s a trip back into the look of the internet back then, but the site still works!

Every year I used to get my annual stash of Popeye T-shirts at the little shop, and to this day I’m usually found wearing either a Popeye T-shirt or one from Rod’s Grill in Arcadia, CA. If you click on T-shirts on their link you can see what available now.. it goes on for many pages!

I’m thinking about coming down again this year- it’s been about five years since I was last there. I especially like the ‘special’ shirts that the Picnic and the Chester Running Club make for the event each year. There’s a theme each year for the Picnic, and the shirts reflect that theme.

I keep a bag of many of my favorite shirts from Chester over the years, and this seemed like a good week to open that bag up and make a gallery of them. Maybe I’ll make a quilt some day… who knows! For now, here they are. I’m especially confused ny the Titantic-inspiored shirt with Popeye and Betty Boop on the front, and Olive by herself on the back. It’s the only shirt I know of that infers that Popeye died of Hypothermia. Have a good week everyone!


sailorman-600 popeye-shirt


  • DANG!!!! Those are SOME nice shirts! I’m jealous!

  • I’ve got to admit that I, too, prefer the Fleischer POPEYE cartoons but I also like some of the Famous Studios titles as well. Hey, I even like some of those King Features titles that came out through the Warner Archive. They featured designs and stories that reminded one of the original comic strip. Thanks for the information on the POPEYE website; I’ll have to check it all out later.

  • I’ve been meaning to visit the Popeye Picnic for ages! Thanks for sharing this info, Steve, and for making it top of mind. Maybe I’ll finally make the pilgrimage…

  • I see Betty again on the back of that Titanic shirt instead of Olive, FYI.

  • Sure… But is this really well-dressed for the occasion?

  • Wow! Love the Popeye Fiesta t shirt from 2005 (or as we say in Spanish “La Fiesta de Popeye” pronounced PO-PEH-YEA, guess Spinach Enchiladas was part of the menu for the 2005 Popeye Picnic no pun intended 😉 ) But I could imagine the different versions of Popeyes, Olive Oyls and Blutos (along with his doppelgänger Brutus) are in the Popeye Picnic!

  • Betty Boop?

    Popeye, you dog, you!

    • It was Betty Boop who introduced Popeye,Bluto and Olive Oyl to the cinema goers in 1932 in the animated short Popeye the Sailor with Betty Boop (which was a Betty Boop cartoon even though Betty Boop had a cameo in the cartoon as a Hula Dancer in the carnival sideshow). This was only time the song Strike Up the Band for Popeye the Sailor was preformed later replaced by I’m Popeye the Sailor Man which was based on another song from that era Strike Up The Band (Here Comes a Sailor).

      The lyrics went like this….

      “Strike up the band for Popeye the Sailor,
      Cash in his hand right off a whaler,
      Stand In a Row (Yo!) Don’t let him go (Yo!!),
      He’s a chinch of every inch of Sailor”.

    • That was in 1932 where Popeye made his first appearence in a Betty Boop cartoon. The reason for this cartoon is that UM&M did not distributed the “Popeye” cartoons, only AAP (United Artists TV) did with his first cartoon which only featured Betty Boop. UM&M also distributed the Betty Boop cartoons, while AAP also had TV rights for the “Popeye” cartoons.

  • I have been a member of the Official Popeye Fan Club for nearly two decades now so thanks for giving that organization some attention. They publish a quarterly fanzine available for only ten bucks a year now for a subscription. While folks can access the information from the Spinach Can Collectibles site, here is a direct link:
    Members also receive a discount on Popeye merchandise. The fanzine is in the spirit of the old fanzines I grew up with and features contributions from such folks as noted Popeye expert Fred M. Grandinetti as well as Tim Hollis. It is a little hidden treasure that brings much joy to those of us who have received it over the years.

  • Actually, the first Popeye was released in 1933 and”Strike Up The Band” was used in more than one Popeye as the intro theme.

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