This article originally appeared in The Hancock County Journal-Pilot
By Joy Swearingen
Hancock County is one of six Illinois communities chosen to host the Smithsonian’s newest travelling exhibit, Hometown Teams, opening in March 2014.
Before this Museum on Main Street exhibit debuts in Illinois next year, these selected sites will work closely with Illinois Humanities Council and the Smithsonian staff to develop companion exhibits and programming that reflect the local history and sports heritage of their towns.
The exhibit will be in Hancock County from Friday, Nov. 1, through Saturday, Dec. 14, the location yet to be determined. Kim Orth, director of Nauvoo Tourism Office, and Amy Graham, coordinator of Carthage Community Development, are the co-chairmen for the “ad hoc” committee, Friends of Hancock County, that submitted the application to the Illinois Humanities Council.
During the application process, Orth and Graham researched and proposed stories that would be included in the local, companion exhibit.
Their stories included the 2000 state championship football game between two county teams — the Carthage Blueboys and LaHarpe/Northwestern Thunder. After the game was over, both teams met at the center of Memorial Stadium in Urbana for a team prayer.
The second example was about Cassie Yager who, as a freshman, was a Nauvoo Viking in volleyball, a Hamilton Cardinal in basketball, and a Warsaw Wildcat in softball because of school co-operative agreements.
As a sophomore, in the first year of the West Hancock cooperative, she was on the girls basketball team that won a state championship.
In conjunction with the Smithsonian exhibit, the communities of Augusta, Bowen, Carthage, Dallas City, Hamilton, LaHarpe, Nauvoo-Colusa, Plymouth and Warsaw have been invited to work within their communities to create a “hometown teams” exhibit that will go on display at the same time the Smithsonian is in Carthage.
Each community will have the opportunity to highlight their sports history, share the impact sports has played in each of their communities and demonstrate how sports has influenced Hancock County as a whole.
Orth and Graham will attend an orientation workshop in Chicago on April 4 and 5. The IHC will work with Friends of HC to help facilitate the exhibit.
Other locations on the Hometown Teams 2014 tour schedule include:
March 1 to April 14 — Union County Museum/ Union County Historical and Genealogy Society at Cobden;
April 19 to June 1 — City of Mattoon Tourism and Arts Department/ Coles County Historical Society at Mattoon;
June 7 to July 20 — Bottomley-Ruffing-Schalk Baseball Museum, Nokomis;
July 26 to Sept. 7 — Waterloo Museum Society, Waterloo;
Sept. 13 to Oct 26 — Rock Island Public Library, Rock Island.
The Illinois Humanities Council explained the exhibit on its website.
“Sports are an indelible part of our culture and community. For well over 100 years sports have reflected the trials and triumphs of the American experience and helped shape our national character. Whether it’s professional sports, or collegiate or amateur sports or sports played by kids on the local playground, the plain fact is sports are everywhere in America,” the site notes.
“Our love of sports begins in our hometowns–on the sandlot, at the local ball field, in the street, even. Each weekend, hundreds of thousands of Americans participate in some sport, on some level. We win and we lose, and we yearn to play another day.
“And if we’re not playing, we’re watching: in the stands, on the fields with our sons and daughters, or in our living rooms with friends in front of a television. Football, baseball, and basketball capture our attention most, but more and more, other non-traditional sports vie for our time and support. On any given weekend in America, sports are a big part of what we do.
“Hometown Teams captures the inextricable connection between towns and their teams. The exhibit will showcase the sports, individuals and artifacts that have been an indelible part of every community, for well over one hundred years.”
Museum on Main Street (MoMS) presents museum-quality exhibits created by the Smithsonian Institution to local communities around the state, with each exhibit celebrating and exploring local heritage within the context of a broad national theme.
For every exhibit that travels to Illinois, the Illinois Humanities Council selects six towns around the state to host the exhibit for six weeks each. The IHC works closely with host communities for more than a year prior to opening, as each town works to bring it to life through exhibitions, events and educational initiatives that honor their local heritage.