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"Field of Dreams" Turns 25

The Kinsella farmhouse from the set of the 1989 Academy Award nominated film "Field of Dreams." Roughly 7,000 tourists visit every year.

25 years ago an Iowa farmer and baseball fan started hearing voices in his corn field.  The film "Field of Dreams," touched millions in a profound way and left behind a baseball diamond in Dyersville that has taken on a life of its own.

"Field of Dreams," is based on the magical realist novel "Shoeless Joe" written by Iowa Writers Workshop graduate W.P. Kinsella.  Though Canadian, Kinsella loved his time in Iowa City.

"I felt an immediate affinity for Iowa....I come from the prairies where it's dry. I love this humidity when you walk down the street and part the air in front of your face...You could just feel the corn growing."

It now seems obvious that the only place "Field of Dreams" could be shot is an actual Iowa corn field, but that was not always the case. In fact, bringing the movie to Dubuque County took convincing and hustle by the Iowa Film Office.

Working as a volunteer for the film office and Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce Sue Riedel scouted possible locations for Universal Studios.  While driving around rural county roads she came across an idyllic, white, two-story, clapboard farmhouse surrounding by corn.

"I went up and down farmland roads...taking pictures of possible farms...When I came up over the hill where the Lancing farm was I just thought it was perfect."

Though owner Don Lancing wasn't home, Riedel took photos and sent her shots to California anyway. "Of course they called and said they wanted to see that farm and I had to own up to what I had done."

At first Lancing was incredulous that anyone would want to shoot a movie on his farm. He eventually agreed and the decision changed Dyersville forever.

Today thousands travel every year to the town of about 4,000 people to "have a catch" on a field that has grown to signify so much to so many.  However, the future of the baseball diamond is unclear. 

Business developer Go the Distance Baseball LLC now owns the baseball field and surrounding land in hopes of turning the ballpark into a tourist attraction. Local farmers oppose the venture, concerned that a steady stream of visitors will disrupt agricultural production.

What's clear is James Earl Jones prophetic promise that, "People will come, Ray. People will definitely come,"  became more true than anyone could have ever imagined.

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa