Press Release

Smithsonian Exhibit Celebrating Sports Begins Illinois Tour March 2014

CHICAGO, IL- February 18, 2014— Nowhere do Americans more intimately connect to sports than in their hometowns. A new traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution, Hometown Teams: Sports in American Communities, is celebrating this connection and will be coming to six towns in Illinois beginning this March.   

The Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) is bringing this national exhibit for six-week spans to the towns and surrounding areas of Cobden, Mattoon, Nokomis, Waterloo, Rock Island, and Carthage, Illinois. The Union County Historical & Genealogy Society in Cobden, Illinois will be the first to open the exhibit, March 1, 2014. The full tour itinerary can be viewed below and online at 

The exhibit seeks to use sports to reflect the trials and triumphs of the American experience that have shaped the country’s national character, and to capture the history and pride of communities through the prism of sports. All levels of sports will be covered, from professional match-ups to pick-up games on the local playground. The exhibition is national in theme and local in scope, with each site interpreting the exhibit to share their local history, legends, and memorabilia their community. 

It is in this aspect of the exhibit where each host site will have a chance to shine. Some of the many stories that will be showcased include that of the Tri-City Blackhawks, one of the first franchises in what eventually became the NBA, and their hall of fame coach Red Auerbach; Monroe County’s fascination with the notoriously difficult card game Kloepper; Mattoon’s claim as “Baseball Capital of the World”; and the legendary 1964 run to the state basketball final by Cobden High School’s famous Appleknockers.  

“Small towns scattered along the prairie are the heart and soul of Illinois, and each has a history worthy of sharing,” said Mallory Laurel, the IHC’s coordinator for the tour. “This exhibit will give them the chance to share this history- of legendary upsets, championship runs, rivalries, traditions, individuals and teams- and tell a greater story about the region.”  Laurel and other IHC staff will be working with the host sites throughout 2014 to help them prepare for the exhibit’s arrival.

Hometown Teams is part of the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program, a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the IHC. MoMS serves small-to medium-sized communities across Illinois by bringing Smithsonian-quality exhibitions to local museums, historical societies, libraries, and community centers around the state. In addition, the states of New Jersey, West Virginia, Nebraska, and Idaho are also premiering the exhibit in 2014. 

 The exhibit is scheduled to visit the following sites in Illinois:

  • Union County Museum w/Union County Historical & Genealogy Society, Cobden: March 1- April 14, 2014
  • City of Mattoon Tourism & Arts Dept. w/Coles Co. Historical Society, Mattoon: April 19- June 1, 2014
  • Bottomley-Ruffing-Schalk Museum, Nokomis: June 7- July 20, 2014
  • History Museum of Monroe County w/Waterloo Museum Society, Waterloo: July 26- September 7, 2014
  • Rock Island Public Library, Rock Island: September 13- October 26, 2014
  • Friends of Hancock County, Carthage: November 1- December 14, 2014 

Special events and presentations reflecting the local histories of each site will also take place. Visit the Illinois Humanities Council’s website at for additional information about Hometown Teams.  

About the Illinois Humanities Council

The Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) is a philanthropic and educational organization dedicated to making the humanities a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities in Illinois, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location. This year, it marks 40 years of developing or funding educational activities and programs throughout the state, including lectures, seminars, performances, exhibitions, films, library discussions, and written materials – all free and open to the public. Organized as a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1973, the IHC is now a private nonprofit (501 [c] 3) supported by state, federal, and private funds. 

Media Contact:
Carlos Velázquez
(312) 422-5580