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'Field of Dreams' site launches 30th anniversary with military salute

The Field of Dreams Movie Site in rural Dyersville, shown here in August 2017, will be abuzz with activity June 1 for a Military Appreciation Day. Festivities include military salutes, personnel and equipment, as well as music, food vendors, exhibition ballgames, and a 30th anniversary showing of the movie that started it all. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
The Field of Dreams Movie Site in rural Dyersville, shown here in August 2017, will be abuzz with activity June 1 for a Military Appreciation Day. Festivities include military salutes, personnel and equipment, as well as music, food vendors, exhibition ballgames, and a 30th anniversary showing of the movie that started it all. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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It’s been 30 years since a dream team of baseball players emerged from a cornfield near Dyersville and into pop culture history.

More than 100,000 people a year continue to step into the footprints of Shoeless Joe Jackson and his fellow ghost players at the “Field of Dreams” Movie Site, a little slice of heaven in rural Iowa. The tagline, “If you build it, he will come,” still rings true.

The bases will be loaded during this anniversary season, beginning June 1 with a Military Appreciation Day. Parking begins at 10:30 a.m., gates open at 11 a.m., and activities run until the final frames of the celebrated film, which will be shown at 9 p.m.

In between are concerts, youth and adult exhibition ballgames, military salutes, military vehicle and equipment displays and discussions, kids’ games, gift shops, and food vendors. Guided house tours will be offered every half-hour at a 50 percent discount.

The event is designed to recognize active duty and veterans of the U.S. armed forces, as well as Gold Star Families who have had a loved one die in military service.

This is a first-time event for the Field of Dreams, said Roman Weinberg, director of operations there. It grew out of brainstorming with World Data Systems in the Chicago area, the credit card processing company used by the tourist complex that features the famed ball diamond, farm house and souvenir gift shops.

“They take a lot of pride in being friends of the community and trying to contribute and give back to the community in any way that they can,” Weinberg said. “We both agreed that a military appreciation day would be perfect. They’ve helped us orchestrate the event with the Special Forces Charitable Trust.”

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World Data Systems has the connections with the military to help secure the personnel and displays, he said, including members of the Green Beret Special Forces.

Concert performers include Joseph Wooten, Grammy-nominated songwriter, keyboardist and singer for the Steve Miller Band; Dubuque performer David Minnihan, accompanied by Roy Schroedl of Platteville, Wis.; and Nashville singer/songwriter P.J. Black-Klein, who also will sing the national anthem during the noon opening ceremonies.

And naturally, the event wouldn’t be complete without some ballgames. At 1 p.m., two youth baseball teams from Illinois will step onto the diamond, and at 7 p.m. a military team of current and retired military members will swing against a civilian pay-to-play team in a three-inning exhibition softball game.

“Anybody can pay for the right to play on the field and make their dreams come true,” Weinberg said. Participants should bring their own mitts and bats; shirts and helmets will be provided.

“It’s been a great journey getting to this point,” Weinberg said. “ ... We’re so excited to host special events to give back to the community and to use this platform that we have to support events that are so much bigger than the game of baseball.”

That’s a natural progression, since the movie hits home runs on so many different levels, from sporting history to family strife and healing, and attracts visitors from far and wide.

Weinberg doesn’t have attendance stats through the decades, but 10 years ago, it was drawing 80,000 to 90,000 people per year, and last year, lured more than 115,000 visitors to see the complex and play a little catch, hit a ball or walk out of the corn, just like in the movie.

“It’s incredible,” he said. “We have become more popular than ever, and the movie just continues to resonate with people. ...

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“It’s such a blessing for us to have this platform to touch people’s lives and have an impact on people lives,” he said. “Our site is very spiritual for pretty much everybody that visits our site. They’re all searching for something or they find such peace with our site.

“I love to say if you have 100 people come to the field, they all come for a hundred different reasons. Everyone has their own, specific reason why this field is special for them, whether it’s because of a relationship they’ve had with a family member or mistakes that they’ve made in the past and they’ve redeemed themselves. They movie just has so many life lessons in it, that it can speak to all walks of life. Everyone can relate to the Kinsella family and their journey in the film,” Weinberg said.

“Obviously, the generation that grew up watching the film is passing it down to their kids. That’s the only reason we’re still open, and we’re just so grateful for all of the dreamers around the world that still come out and visit our site.”

At age 24, Weinberg is one of that second-generation who grew up watching the film.

“I saw it for the first time when I was about 6 and didn’t fully appreciate it at first,” he said, “but have realized over time what a special film it is, and the film’s lessons still speak to me. Working at the Field is my dream come true, and it’s something I never thought possible 10 years ago.”

If you go

What: Military Appreciation Day

Where: “Field of Dreams” Movie Site, 28995 Lansing Road, Dyersville

When: June 1; 10:30 a.m. parking opens, 11 a.m. gates open, activities all day, 9 p.m. screening of “Field of Dreams” film

Tickets: $8; free under age 5 and active and retired military; at gate or fodmoviesite.ticketspice.com/military-appreciation-day; 50 percent goes to the Special Forces Charitable Trust; donations accepted

Bring: blankets and lawn chairs for seating, sunscreen; no outside food or drink allowed; no smoking; no pets, only service animals

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Related: 30th anniversary celebration, 10:30 a.m. June 15; more events will follow, with details to come

Information: Fieldofdreamsmoviesite.com

l Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

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