I'm sure y'all remember the slogan, "Build it and they will come."
Well, it rang true. Not only in the movie, "Field of Dreams" but now for the former movie set in Dyersville, Iowa.
Our local tour company offered a short overnight bus trip there and my husband is a big fan of the movie and he was all for it.
We arrive in Dyersville Tuesday afternoon and are met by two ladies from the local Chamber of Commerce. We are given a short tour while on the bus and then are taken to Basilica of St. Francis Xavier there in Dyersville. Not being Catholic I was sadly ignorant of the difference between a basilica and a church, but were soon schooled in the difference. The sanctuary was magnificent and then we were treated to a tocatta on the pipe organ which was nothing short of glorious.
Another stop was the National Toy Museum -- it's Iowa so three guesses and the first two don't count on what the toys depict. Wait, did you say farm implements? If you did, you'd be correct. Many, many of them from well known John Deere and Case and Ford as well as little dioramas of farms hand made by a local man. Ertl is a toy company that once made many of these toys in the same city.
Our next day was to the field and farmhouse. And it is outside of town in case you wondered.
Dyersville, Iowa, is only about 4,400, but I guess they aren’t as quick to annex as other cities are, so it actually may be closer to 5000. Thirty five years ago when they were scouting for a place for Field of Dreams, one of the producers found this one place with the house and the fields and said this was it. They renovated the farm house, put on a new porch, and then built the diamond. They told the farmer they would put things back the way they were and when it was all said and done, the farmer liked the changes to the house like the porch and a/c. After the movie people started coming to see the diamond and wanted tours of the house and I think that helped the farmer decide he liked this aspect. Dyersville also was famous for those farm equipment toys like the brand name Ertl. Since then, the town has embraced the tourism aspect and then last year MLB built a stadium for a game and it was such a success, they plan to have another game there this year. That stadium is considered temporary and MLB plans to build a permanent one as well as youth baseball diamonds are in the works as well. There are two small baseball museums in town, one is by the actor, Dwier Brown, who played Ray’s father in the movie. The other the town is putting together giving history about the movie and how it was made. New factories and businesses are locating there, even a Belgium cattle farmer is bringing cattle there to have local farmers raise and sell them for him. The town created incentives to the older folks to sell their homes that were in the middle price range by building beautiful 55+ communities so there would be housing for younger folks and then the town sought out grants that would help young people move and stay there. Farm land goes for around $17,000 an acre.
We had a "ghost player" get on the bus and talk to us. He was one of the extras in the movie. He said that at first when he was offered the job he wasn’t sure he wanted it, but he loved baseball and thought it might be a good experience. He said because of that, it changed his life and gave him opportunities he never dreamed of. The extras helped Ray Liotta learn how to play baseball and he said the work ethic of Ray’s was amazing. He would stay in the field hours and had blisters on his hand from trying to learn how to bat. After the movie, the “ghosts" were invited to different things and they did lots of things in the past 34 years. They played baseball games with real baseball players, famous ones like Lou Brock. They toured all over the world talking about their experiences. He didn’t tell us this, but the lady at the chamber of commerce did — our ghost, Frank, and some of the others, went to visit soldiers who were stationed far from home and talked about their experiences with the move and baseball and tried to cheer up the troops. Frank said it enabled him to take his wife to places he otherwise could not have afforded. He’s retired from the post office, but still volunteers at the site because he likes people and likes sharing his story. He continued to say how blessed he was from having been given the opportunity of being a ghost or extra.
I went to take photos and was stopped by a security guard for the MLB saying I could not take photos of the MLB stadium that is beyond the field for the movie. I wasn’t planning on taking photos of it. I wanted to take photos of the field and the house. Apparently the professional stadium will be hosting the Cubs and Reds this August, and the MLB plans to build a permanent stadium in the area soon.
The doll museum was pretty extensive. I guess they have way over 2000 dolls, mostly donated. It is in the house of the town’s founder. We had a tea there with sweets and a cup of tea. The house was Victorian and pretty interesting.
It’s impressive how this little town as really taken itself seriously and embraces progress. Just like the movie, build it and they will come, not only the ghosts, but lots of tourist to see this wonder.