In The News

Night Of Champions Kicks Off BRS Event

This story originally appeared in the Journal News

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 is making its way through six towns in Illinois this year.

The Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) is bringing this national exhibit to Nokomis in the third of six stops around the state. Cobden and Mattoon have had the exhibit prior to Nokomis, which will open its six weeks with the exhibit at Bottomley-Ruffing-Schalk Baseball Museum on Saturday, June 7.

Once the exhibit completes its run at the BRS on July 20, it will move to Waterloo, Rock Island and Carthage. 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 in their community.

“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.

Opening ceremonies will be Saturday, June 7, at 7 p.m. at the Nokomis High School. It will feature a Night of Champions, showcasing high school state championship teams from six area schools.

Included among those teams is the 45-0 Taylorville boys’ basketball squad from 1943-44 that featured Ron Bontemps and Johnny Orr, among others, and was coached by the legendary Dolph Stanley.

Other teams to be honored are the 2009 Lincolnwood baseball team; the 2005-06 Hillsboro girls basketball team; the 1997-98 and 1998-99 Nokomis girls basketball team; the 1995-96 Shelbyville boys basketball team; the 1987-88 Pana boys basketball team; and the 1913-14 Hillsboro boys basketball team.

The format will allow each school 10 to 15 minutes to tell how their championship run shaped the team members as people and how it affected the community.

The event is expected to last about 90 minutes with a reception to follow at the museum, which is located on Illinois Rt. 16.

During the Smithsonian exhibit’s six-week run, the museum will be open daily from noon to 9 p.m. with Saturday hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Other public programs during the exhibit will include a sports-themed movie night for the community on June 13; an opportunity to have your sports memorabilia appraised on June 14 and a sports media roundtable (which includes Journal-News sports editor Kyle Herschelman) on June 29.

For more information on the project, visit the BRS Museum website at or email them

Hometown Teams Schedule

• Open Daily June 7-July 20: Open from noon until 9 p.m. Sunday through Friday; Open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday – Free Admission Every Day

• 7 p.m. – June 7 – Night Of Champions: During the opening ceremonies at Nokomis High School, six state championship teams from the Nokomis area will be honored for their accomplishments, with a reception to follow at the museum. Free Admission.

• 9:30 a.m. – June 10 – Take Me Out To The Ballgame: The Nokomis Public Library will be hosting an event geared for children ages 6-10, with reading, writing, graphing and crafts available. A tour of the museum’s exhibit will also be held in conjunction with the event. Free Admission.

• 6:15 & 8:30 p.m. – June 13 – Twin Bill At The Movies: Steele Hall, at the corner of State and Spruce streets in Nokomis, will host a sports movie double feature, with the kids’ classic Little Giants leading off and followed by the critically acclaimed 42, which chronicles a portion of Jackie Robinson’s career as the first African American in the major leagues. Donations will be accepted.

• 2 to 4 p.m. – June 14 – Taking Stock Of Your Sports Stuff: Ever wonder what those sports items you own might be worth? The public can have their prized possessions appraised by a professional at this Antiques Roadshow type event at the BRS Museum. Donations will be accepted.

• 2 p.m. – June 29 – Sports Media Roundtable: Media from the local, regional and national levels (including Kyle Herschelman of The Journal-News) are scheduled to provide their own perspective on what sports means to their towns and the teams they cover. The format will be a general discussion within the panel and will include interaction with the audience, discussing the role of the media and how the audience can help shape a story. The event, which will be held at Steele Hall, formerly the IGA building in Nokomis. Free Admission.