Study: Idaho is the nation’s fourth nerdiest state

Bill Schaefer for the Post Register Local Star Wars reenactors pose with Grayson Barlow, 5, and Austin Barlow, 8, of Pocatello, at O.K. Ward Park in Chubbuck. Bill Schaefer for the Post Register

When it comes to nerdy, Idaho’s trekkies, “cosplayers” and fantasy lit enthusiasts have pushed the Gem State toward the top of the heap, according to a recent study.

A study by the online real estate index, Estately, ranked Idaho as the fourth nerdiest state in the nation, behind only Utah, Alaska and Wyoming.

Rankings were determined using data collected from Facebook users in every state and Washington, D.C. Users had to list any of 12 “nerdy categories” — which included Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons and anime movies — as Facebook interests.

Idaho ranked particularly high in fantasy lit (No. 2), Harry Potter (No. 4), Star Trek (No. 6) and LARPing (No. 5).

“I think these results are to be expected,” said Bernard Finnigan, a 43-year-old, self-proclaimed nerd who resides in Idaho Falls. “The people who live here in Idaho, we’ve seen it all. We don’t want to ski or golf anymore, once you tire of that, there’s not much to do out here.

“Some people come here for the great outdoors,” Finnigan said. “Well, I’m a fan of the great indoors. The root word of scenery is scene — as in, I’ve seen it already and I’m sick of it. Once you’ve seen it all, you really have to make fun for yourself.”

Finnigan certainly does so. He’s an active cosplayer, someone who enjoys dressing in character costumes. He has a closet full of Star Wars costumes and a Ghostbusters suit. Each year for Halloween, Finnegan puts zombies out in his yard.

He’s also raising his kids to be nerdy. His 13-year-old son, Ian, attended a recent Salt Lake City Comic Con as Doctor Octopus and his 14-year-old daughter, Elly, wore a costume based off Twitter, called “Twitter Girl.” His wife, Valerie, writes her own comic books.

“I’d say nerd used to be a word that meant the skinny and weak,” Finnigan said. “But these days, it’s become a badge of honor. It’s something to be proud of.”

Finnigan isn’t the only nerd who feels at-home in Idaho. The nerd culture appears to be thriving throughout eastern Idaho.

The Ebonhold Realm, which is part of the International Belegarth Medieval Combat Society, meets regularly in Tautphaus Park to fight as medieval knights would — only these knights use foam-padded weapons.

Brigham Young University-Idaho boasts its own “bronie” group — male fans of the My Little Pony TV show.

The Timberline Garrison of the 501st Legion — a Star Wars costume group with more than 6,000 members worldwide — has been trooping around Idaho and Montana for at least 10 years.

Erin and Doug Atwood are garrison members. The Atwoods dress up for at least 50 events each year. Much of their costume play also benefits charities, including the Children’s Miracle Network and Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“It seems like geek culture and nerd culture is becoming more mainstream,” Erin Atwood said. “It seems a lot more people are into it now. I’ve also found Idaho to be a very accepting state, I think it allows nerds to grow and express themselves … and I think if you love something, you should go for it and do it without any fear.”

Jensen Palmer, a 22-year-old, BYU-Idaho student, considers himself a bronie, as well as a Whovian — a fan of the science-fiction show Doctor Who. Palmer is from Georgia.

In Idaho, he said he’s discovered a more nerd-friendly culture.

“I’d say the biggest thing is just to be proud of who you are,” he said. “God has given us all different talents. I’m not very athletic but I’m good with computers. My roommate is very athletic and could probably lift me with one hand … if you’re constantly trying to be someone else, there’s no organization, nothing works. If you’re good at something, develop it and be proud it.”

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