July 12, 2006
If You Build It, Fans Will Come

Sorry for the lack of updates over the last couple of days. Our editor at The Ohio County TImes-News was on vacation, so I got a crash course in how to do layout for the newspaper. However, one of our stories that made the front page of this week's sports section that comes out tonight focused on a local couple who traveled all the way to Iowa to be married at the famed baseball field used for the movie Field of Dreams.

The husband, Ted Hill, is the current head baseball coach for the local Ohio County High School baseball team in Hartford, Ky. His wife, Amber Hamilton Hill, is a former player for the team. And now, apparently, the thing that brought them together--a love of baseball and a love for each other--has led them to Dyersville, Iowa, where their dreams could come true by saying their nuptuals on the baseball field.

According to reporter Neil Grant, a high school history teacher who writes sports for the local newspaper, "both the bride and groom were dressed appropriately for the wedding--in Ohio County HIgh baseball uniforms." And, apparently, records indicate that they are the second couple to travel out to the Dyersville field to be married and the first to make the trek for wedding vows since 1989, the year the field was opened and the year the film was released.

So, while everyone always talks about flying out to Vegas to be married or drive-thru wedding ceremonies, don't forget that fan affiliations can lead for people to travel for their wedding. For most people, this may seem like a gimmick, something that detracts from the authenticity and reverence of a wedding ceremony in our culture. For this couple, though, they indicated that this ceremony had that reverence for them--mentioning that "its not every day you get to wear your baseball uniform to be married" and repeating a favorite quote from the film--"This field, this game is part of our past. It reminds us of all that was once good, nad it could be good again."

And, as for the tourism industry, maybe the marriage market is something that media properties should consider further. Companies like Disney have long proven the strong correlation between fandom and travel. We've written here various times this summer already about the importance of fans as tourists, such as the focus on the birthplace of Bill Monroe here in Rosine, Ky. and Fenway Park as a tourist attraction. Unfortunately, according to Grant in this article on the couple getting married in Dyersville, the couple was not allowed to reserve the field for a wedding party. Maybe a missed marketing opportunity?

Either way, no one will dispute that marriage is one of the most important events in most people's lives, and that this couple felt such a strong affiliation to baseball culture and to a movie that they wanted to travel to a small town in Iowa to be married indicates something pretty powerful about fan communities. And, in this couple's case, they have taken aspects of the Field of Dreams film and appropriated them for their own purposes, attaching new meaning to them in their own lives and their own story. In a nutshell, that appropriation is what fans do on an every day basis...it's just not always this colorful.