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Volunteers work to make museum a reality

By ROXANNE DASS

mural

Norway baseball has been a tradition of the small Benton County town for over a century. Now that tradition is being honored through the Iowa Baseball Museum of Norway.

The grand opening for the museum will be Saturday, June 26, and will be an all day affair, said Shona Frese, member of the baseball museum’s board.

“We’ll have a day full of baseball and fun,” said Frese. “We invite everyone to come out and have a good time.”

The museum officially opened in February, but Frese said the board members decided to wait until summer to hold the grand opening.

“We wanted nice baseball weather,” said Frese.

The grand opening events will start at 7 a.m. with a bake sale at the bank parking lot and end that night with an outdoor showing of “The Final Season.” In between will be baseball games, food, music and several other activities.

HISTORY

The museum features the baseball history of the town of Norway, including biographies of Norway’s most famous players.

The idea of the museum has long been in people’s minds, but according to Frese, Burt Day was the person who got the ball rolling.

Day, a longtime banker with Benton County Savings Bank, had a dream of opening a museum.

Day said he never played baseball or had children who played the sport, but he knew baseball was deeply ingrained in the community he served.

“Everyone talked about baseball everywhere you would go,” said Day. “It’s a huge part of this community.”

The former Norway High School baseball team had been to the state championship 29 times, winning 20 championships. While the high school was still in Norway, the championship trophies resided at the school.

Once the school was closed, the trophies went into storage, collecting dust, said Frese.

“It was a different atmosphere after the high school closed,” said Day.

In fall 2008, Day decided it was time to bring the trophies out of storage. He contacted his former secretary, Marj Becker, and asked her to gather some people who would be interested in a baseball museum. Day donated a building he owned and the group formed a nonprofit for the endeavor.

The group raised funds for the museum and volunteers worked on fixing up the building starting in March 2009.

“The whole thing was done with volunteers,” said Frese. “The electrical work, carpentry, cabinets, all of it.”

Over 50 volunteers gave their time to fix the building up and prepare for the grand opening. Now, almost two years after the group started the project, it is finished.

The museum features all 20 championship trophies and tells the story of Norway baseball history.

“The trophies have a home now,” said Frese.

Starting with 1939, Frese said there are displays spanning 30 years, leading up to the high school’s final season in 1991.

Several pictures, newspaper clippings and uniforms grace the displays.

In the back of the museum is a room with over 70 scrapbooks about baseball and Norway history.

“People can go back and browse through the scrapbooks,” said Frese.

Frese said baseball clips and the movie about the Norway baseball team “The Final Season” will be shown in the museum as well.

The outside of the museum will be to enjoy as local teen Malea Schulte painted a mural on the outside of the building.

And Frese reminds visitors to visit the gift shop where they can buy baseball memorabilia.

Day said the museum turned out better than they all expected.

“It’s unbelievable what’s happened in the last two years,” said Day. “The people of Norway have put together a first class deal.”

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

The grand opening will take place Saturday, June 26.

7 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. – Bake sale at bank parking lot, silent auction

8 a.m. – Bike ride

11 a.m. – Parade

12 p.m. – Grand opening ceremony

1p.m. – Little League and Old Timer’s baseball games

4 p.m. – Music and end of silent auction

Early evening – Hot air balloon exhibition and rides (weather permitting)

Dusk – Outdoor showing of “The Final Season”

For more information, visit the Web site www.norwaybaseballmuseum.com or contact Shona Frese at 319-721-6288.

UPDATED June 22, 2010 12:32 PM

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