This article originally appeared in the Southern Illinoisan
By Chris Hottensen
COBDEN — The Smithsonian has come to Cobden.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Smithsonian’s “Hometown Teams” traveling exhibit took place Saturday at the Union County Museum with the Cobden High School band providing pre-ceremonial fanfare.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportuntiy,” Smithsonian Project Director Judy Travelstead said.
The Smithsonian shipped 21 boxes, weighing 200 pounds each, to the museum last week, giving the museum just a week to organize and display the hundreds of local artifacts it had spent a year researching and collecting.
The traveling exhibit highlights the impact of sports teams in small communities.
“I hope people learn to appreciate the importance of sports in the history of their towns and of individuals,” Travelstead said. “It’s not just about scores … It’s about the social interaction, it’s about knowing other towns, it’s about traveling, it’s about learning to get along with people, it’s about identity.”
The Smithsonian exhibits feature sporting magazines and video games, baseball cards and a small set of bleachers to give the feel of being at a game. Interactive videos of bands, cheerleaders and mascots and recordings of athletes expressing their love of sports add an element of entertainment to the experience.
The museum interspersed around the Smithsonian exhibits hundreds of local sports artifacts, including tributes to women in sports, the 1964 Cobden Appleknockers basketball team, the Southern Illinois Conference of Colored High Schools and Harvey Welch, who was the first to break the SIU basketball team’s color barrier.
“I think it’s just fantastic what they they’ve done here and how they’ve interwoven the local exhibits with the Smithsonian,” Anna resident Barbara Bauer said.
Ken Flick, a member of the 1964 Appleknockers state finalist team, cut the ribbon to open the exhibit. He said the exhibit is a tribute to the unifying nature of sports.
“It (sports) pulls the town together. They do a lot of things they wouldn’t normally do and if they get lucky and have a little better team, it’s amazing how many more people get involved.”
The exhibit took many down nostalgia lane.
Anna resident Judy McFadden couldn’t hold back tears when she saw the family story of her uncle pitching against Dizzy Dean and her son’s jersey from the 1984 3A Anna-Jonesboro state champion football team immortalized in the museum.
The Smithsonian exhibit has already been in two other states and will travel to five other towns across Illinois.
A series of historical programs on Southern Illinois sports will be featured on Sundays until the exhibit closes April 13.