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The Field of Dreams – Part 3: Iowa and Dyersville Gone Hollywood

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

Before heading to Dyersville, I explored two nearby towns that served as film locations for Field of Dreams. The city of Dubuque, 26 miles east of Dyersville, was both the home base of operation for the film’s crew and also was featured in the movie as a stand-in for Boston.

For some reason, James Earl Jones’ character, author Terence Mann based (loosely on the real life and apparently litigious J.D. Salinger) lived in a Jewish neighborhood in Boston that is not at all reflective of any actual neighborhood in the real Boston that I have called home since 1997. Even more incongruous is the fact that the Kosher butcher neighbor of the fictious author actually was filmed on a street in Dubuque currently populated by multiple pawn shops. Beyond the pawn shops, Dubuque is a charming midwestern city with beautiful Victorian architecture.

Dubuque, Iowa was both the home base for the Field of Dream film crew and a stand-in for Boston in the movie. Central Avenue at 17th Street was the character Terence Mann’s neighborhood in the film (right).

Another stand-in town featured in the movie is Galena, Illinois, which is just across the Mississippi River about 40 miles from Dyersville. Galena served as the home of the fictitious version of the real Moonlight Graham, who hailed from the actual town of Chisolm, MN. In addition to being the birthplace of Civil War hero and the 18th President Ulysses S. Grant, Galena is a picture postcard perfect getaway spot for Chicagoans seeking an escape from the city.

Main Street in Galena, Illinois – Field of Dreams filming site for Moonlight Graham’s home of “Chisolm, MN”

Galena, Illionis is charming historic tourist destinations for vacationing Chicagoans as well as being the home of the 18th President Ulysses S. Grant.

The town of Dyersville was dressed to the nines (no baseball pun intended) for the big day. By the time I got to town (about 4 miles from the Field of Dreams), downtown Dyersville was jammed with baseball fans of both teams, media and Iowans taking in the scene. Chicago and New York accents could be heard mixed in with locals who appeared giddy for their big day in the spotlight.

Given the small size of the stadium and the intense interest in the event, many people traveled to Dyersville simply to soak in the experience. To entertain those fans, Travel Iowa & MidwestOne and MLB hosted a two day fair called Beyond the Game that included concerts, rides, games, food and beer tents and a huge screen to view the movie on the night before the game as well as the Field of Dreams telecast itself.

Dyersville hosted a two day festival called “Beyond the Game” to entertain fans with and without tickets.

A highlight was the little storefront museum called “If You Build It” on 1st Avenue in Dyersville was put together by Edwards Creative, which featured extensive details about the making of the film and the afterlife of the movie’s famous cornfield. The exhibit was temporary, but one would imagine it will return when the game is played in the future.

One particular tidbit pertaining to the film was fascinating to me. In 1988, a drought unseen since the Dust Bowl days led to extremely slow corn growth that jeopardized filming in Iowa. Without the benefit of modern CGI, the production team had to dam a small creek to irrigate the site. A Fox Sports program entitled “If You Build It: 30 Years of the Field of Dreams” also revealed the producers had to bus in water from out of state in addition to relying on some sort of magical liquid manure spreader. Luckily for MLB and Fox Sports, no such spreader was needed this year as the corn was taller than me throughout the Corn State.

In the center of downtown Dyersville was a special museum exhibit calledIf You Build Itabout the making of the Field of Dreams.

As much as I was enjoying myself in the hours leading up to the game, I saw an ominous reminder of the White Sox 2nd class status in the middle of town – RONNIE “WOO WOO” WICKERS. Mr. Woo Woo is best known for his Cubs loving chants in the bleachers of Wrigley Field. Ronnie is a legendary Cubs superfan and his presence in Iowa made me a bit concerned since the White Sox tend to lose when I have spotted him at the Sox South Side ballpark. I couldn’t escape the potentially bad karma of Cubs hegemony even in Iowa.

All text and photographs (except as otherwise noted) Copyright Ken Smoller 2023 (aka Stadium Vagabond).

For more stadium, travel and sports photos, follow the Stadium Vagabond instagram page.

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