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Monday, May 2, 2016

BASIC BIITTNER: Proud to be an Iowan

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I had to be in Des Moines the other day for an appointment, so I took the time to visit an attraction which I had been wanting to see ever since it opened. The attraction of which I'm speaking is the Iowa Hall of Pride. The "baby" of former IHSAA Executive Director Bernie Saggau, the Hall of Pride stands as a monument to the students, teachers, parents, coaches, and administrators of Iowa's schools, with a fascinating array of interactive kiosks, games and videos telling the story of the spirit of Iowa, through the history of school and student accomplishments - not just in athletics, but in all scholastic and extracurricular activities.

The self-guided tour at the Hall begins, if the visitor so chooses, with a 12-minute film about Iowa and the thought behind the creation of the Hall of Pride. Then, visitors are free to roam around the one - floor (ground floor, with a street entrance) Hall of Pride. All exhibits are clearly marked. One interesting, though a bit disturbing, exhibit is a timeline of Iowa's school districts, where one came easily see how the number of schools in each county have grown - or shrunk, as is often the case.

Most of the exhibits and displays, though, evoke a more pleasant reaction, largely through memories of earlier times. There are a great number of interviews with many prominent Iowans talking about their memories of growing up or working in Iowa, and the the number of interviews visitors choose to view is totally an individual choice.

In addition to the focus on Iowa school athletics, music, speech, debate and theater, there is a section called the Hall of Heroes, with interactive displays on famous native-born Iowans, including - among others - John Wayne, Donna Reed, Nobel Prize winner Norman Bourlag, President Herbert Hoover, computer inventor John V. Atanosoff, circus band director and composer Karl King, opera singer Simon Estes and Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick.

Like many other visitors to the Hall of Pride, I could have spent several more hours there than I did. I highly recommend it. If it doesn't make you proud to be an Iowan, then nothing will.

The Hall of Pride is located at 330 Park Street in downtown Des Moines, part of the Wells Fargo Complex. It is open Monday - Saturday, and closed on Sundays and major holidays. You can check their website, www.iowahallofpride.com, for a more specific schedule and further information about this great new Iowa destination.

When we got to the Hall Monday, it was 12:05 p.m. NORMALLY, they are open at that time, but there was a sign posted on the inside door of the Hall, saying "Closed from 12 noon - 1 p.m. on 7/14/08. Come on up to the Hy-Vee Hall, room C, to help send Shawn Johnson and LoLo Jones off to the Olympics."

Well, since that was just a few steps away, we went on up the stairs to experience an unplanned part of our visit to Des Moines. We were just in time to hear hurdler LoLo Jones, former Des Moines Roosevelt High School and Louisiana State University hurdler, thanking everyone for coming out and supporting her, and encouraging the kids in the audience to do their best, believe in themselves, and "you never know what could happen." The Master of Ceremonies for the send-off announced that Jones had decided to donate her $4000 winnings from the Olympic Trials to Des Moines-area victims of the recent flooding, and that her sponsors, Oakley and Asics, had agreed to match that amount. It was then announced that Jones was specifically donating the entire $12,000 to a single mom with small children, who I THINK was a friend of hers (if she wasn't before, she certainly is now!). This friend was in the audience, but was unaware, until it was revealed in front of all of us, that she would be receiving this generous donation. The woman was totally flabbergasted and pretty much speechless.

The drum line Isiserettes revved things up, and I tell you, I was all ready to go to a football game! Not just yet, though.

America's newest "sweetheart", 16-year-old Shawn Johnson of Des Moines - America's greatest hope in the 2008 Olympic gymnastic competition - was next on the bill After the audience viewed a video of a Johnson gymnastic performance, and she expressed many of the same thoughts Jones had, it was revealed - again, as a surprise - that Johnson was also making a personal donation for flood relief - in this case to her gymnastics coach, Liang Chow, whose gymnastics and dance studio in West Des Moines - the place where Johnson and other students practice and train - was completely flooded in the recent disaster.

Chow, a native of China, will be going with Johnson soon for the Beijing Olympics, and he was very touched by his pupil's generosity, as was the entire "standing room only" crowd.

As a member of that crowd myself, it put me into the perfect frame of mind to go downstairs and tour the Iowa Hall of Pride.

And you know what? Though I don't usually get "into" the Olympic competition much, I just might watch and follow the exploits of Iowans LoLo Jones and Shawn Johnson this summer.

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner