Dark skies seemed like the appropriate weather for a day in Hell, Michigan.
Hundreds of people descended on the hamlet, about an hour southeast of Lansing, on Saturday to celebrate Mountain’s Dew’s new “Flamin’ Hot” soda. The restaurant, lounge, and gift shop in the small town had been decorated with neon green and crimson flame patterns to match the abnormally bright red drink.
The show included a DJ set by Pauly D of jerseyshore fame and a cooking demonstration with chef and rapper Action Bronson.
This type of event is normal for the course of Hell, where visitors can get married, graduate from Damnation University, or become mayor for a day. Nearly 250 became unofficial leaders of the Hamlet in 2021, and about 400 people are currently The morning of the Mountain Dew event, a 94-year-old man took charge of the small block of buildings.
Putnam Township Clerk Valerie Niemiec said a sense of humor is necessary to be part of the community.
“I am the clerk of Hell. I keep records in hell, try not to be on my bad list. … Our fire trucks say, ‘We put out the fires in Hell.’ So it’s, you know, a hell of a good time,” Niemiec said.
She explained that the popular theory is that the community earned its name during Prohibition when moonshiners made stills in the area and “raised hell.” This reputation continued until the late 90s when a local decided to change things up.
“There’s a very creative entrepreneur by the name of John Colone,” she said. “He’s the one who really improved the game.”
Colone had recently retired from owning a car dealership at the time and felt he could make Hell a destination for visitors rather than a place to cause trouble.
He owns a gift shop called Screams Souvenir from Hell & Helloween and runs a miniature golf course next door, among other businesses in town.
“People just come to have fun now and not to cause mayhem, and that’s the difference,” Colone said.
Among the visitors who became mayors for the day, some of Colone’s stars included a Youtuber who renamed the town “Gay Hell”, an internet famous cat and a go-go dancer who brought her own pole to dance on. .
On June 6, 2006 or 6/6/06, almost 20,000 overwhelmed the city. Colone said this was an unplanned event and the community was unprepared for such large crowds.
“I ended up having to publicly apologize for doing it…I was fined, but it was worth the $200.”
After more than two decades managing Hell, Colone said he’s still not ready to fully retire. His philosophy is simple.
“A lot of people are going through hell, let’s make them happy as hell,” he said.
As for the drink, was it hot enough for the city of Hell?
“It was like, more citrus than I thought. I was expecting more heat or spiciness,” said Jade Nesler from Livonia. She came with a friend who was invited to the event via a network of influencers.
Costa Wells of Sterling Heights said he decided to attend because he was a fan of Mountain Dew and Action Bronson. He had a similar opinion on the drink.
“I taste a light kick, if anything.”
But maybe that suits a town with an intimidating name but surprisingly friendly demeanor.