Bieber, California: Small Town Lives in Shadow of a Pop Icon

Paul Bonanos

The community of 500 says Bieber fever hasn't infected them just yet, even as a small number of fans reportedly make the trek to take pictures with the town's sign.

You'd better believe Bieber is accomplished enough to have a town named after him.

No -- we're not talking about Justin Bieber. We mean Judge Bieber, the namesake of Bieber, Calif. Population: 510.

The small Northern California town is situated in the Big Valley, 250 miles north of Sacramento. Though The Hollywood Reporter has seen photographic evidence of the pop star's fans stopping by the town to take pictures in front of its sign, Bieber residents insist Bieber fever hasn't quite infected the town.

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"We really don’t get much Justin Bieber hype," says Jessica Bowman, superintendent/principal of Big Valley Schools. "And due to our rural location, don’t get many visitors at all."

Kids grow up zipping around on dirt bikes, hunting, playing after-school sports and heading down to Kathy's Cafe for cold Cokes. The fire department is unironically adorned with the letters BFD (for Bieber Fire Department, though it has a less family-friendly Urban Dictionary definition as well.)

"It's a great place to live. It's just clean life," says Tom Cox, who lived in Bieber as a teen and graduated from high school there in 1980.

In addition to Bieber, Big Valley is made up of three other towns: Nubieber, Lookout and Adin. As idyllic as it sounds, like most parts of the country, the Big Valley has dark parts of its history. In 1901, citizens of Lookout lynched five men (a father, his three sons and a drifter) for allegedly maiming and killing local ranchers' cattle and horses.

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In some surprising ways, the town's residents have more in common with a celebrity than one might think. There's no anonymity walking down the street since everyone knows who you are. And when you go out in Bieber, you often don't have to pay for anything. Many stores let you run a tab that you pay at the end of the month, because they know you're good for it.

And if you're young and you get in a little trouble with traffic laws, you might get off with a warning. When Cox was 15, the county sheriff pulled him over for driving without a license. Instead of giving him a ticket, the sheriff just followed him back home and told him not to do it again. 

Key Statistics:

Number of Churches: 4

Number of Schools: 2

Population: 510 (it was 312 during the 2010 census)

See a video tour of Bieber below.

Twitter: @AaronCouch