DYERSVILLE, Iowa -- The corn lining the outfield is tall
again this year. The white farmhouse, wraparound porch and picket
fence appear unaffected by time. The mythic baseball diamond and
lush outfield look just like they did in the film made 17 years
And for a few hours, hundreds of children and parents raced
around the bases, played catch or hit soft pitches in the field
made famous by 1989's "Field of Dreams."
For 10-year-old Alexis Turner, the visit included a brush with
Kevin Costner, the movie's star who returned Friday for the first
time since filming ended.
Costner joined about 5,000 people who packed the field for a
free screening of the movie. The event, sponsored by online DVD
rental company Netflix Inc., is the fifth stop in a 10-city tour
featuring classic movies at the locations they were filmed.
"My dad pointed him out to me. I didn't even know I was
standing next to him," said Turner, of Goshen, Ind., who fielded
balls while Costner tossed pitches to one young hitter after
"He told me to 'step back honey,' ... when one, a bigger
hitter, came to bat," said Turner, in the middle of touring
several major league ballparks with her father. "This is easily my
most favorite part of the trip."
The film, about a farmer named Ray Kinsella who is persuaded by
a mysterious voice to build a baseball field in his cornfield, is
based on the W.P. Kinsella novel "Shoeless Joe."
"I was only 14 when the movie came out, and it was immediately
one of my favorites and still is," said Jennifer Lukenbill, who
drove her husband and children eight hours from their home in
Nevada, Mo., to see Costner and the movie.
"I can't watch it even today without feeling the way I did the
first time," she said. "It was the first time I saw my dad cry --
and the last time."
The movie turned a plot of land owned by two local farmers into
a site visited by more than 65,000 people each year.
Like the ball diamond, not much has changed in Dyersville since
the film crew and stars like James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta and Burt
Lancaster invaded this small eastern Iowa town.
A new hotel has been added, the downtown has undergone a
beautification and lighting project and several new companies have
The population -- 4,035 -- has increased by about 100. Tourism and
agriculture are still the area's chief economic engines.
"I think initially, the natives thought interest in the field
as an attraction would taper off," said Dyersville Mayor Jim
Heavens, who estimated more than 1 million people have visited the
field in the last 17 years. "But it's been pretty steady over the
years and it's one of those things that continues to make a
connection with people."
Visitors on Friday got a sense of the dispute between the two
families that own the land. The Lansing family, which owns the
farmhouse, right field and most of the infield, elected not to take
part in the event. So officials closed off their property, forcing
moviegoers to plant their folding chairs in left and center field.
But for many, like Dan Dunavan, a 65-year-old retiree from St.
Louis, the turf tension was irrelevant.
"I just wanted to come up and see this," said Dunavan. "It's
a cornfield pretty much in the middle of nowhere. And everything
looks the same as it did in the movie."
Before the screening, Costner played a 75-minute set with his
"I feel like I will forever be connected here to the state of
Iowa," Costner told the crowd. "I've never lost my feel for what
we did here. This was a perfect time for me to come back. This is
our secret here tonight in the corn."