For 53 years Don Lansing has lived in Dyersville, Iowa, on the 100-acre farm that his family has called home since 1906. Don was born in the farmhouse. He has raised corn and soybeans since 1979, when he bought the farm from his father, La Vern.
Hollywood discovered Dyersville (pop. 3,800) in 1987, when Sue Riedel, who worked for the Iowa Film Commission, was scouting a location for a baseball movie that was going to star Kevin Costner. She drove over a knoll and saw Lansing's white clapboard house amid the rolling cornfields. "Immediately, I knew that was the one," says Riedel. Lawrence Gordon, one of the film's producers, then negotiated with Lansing and his neighbors, Al and Rita Ameskamp, to turn parts of their adjoining farmland into a simple ball field.
On April 20, 1989, the movie, Field of Dreams, premiered in Dubuque before opening the next day in theaters across the U.S. Two weeks later the first visitor arrived at Lansing's farm, drawn by the same karma that made the movie a box-office hit and a cult classic.
"He was some guy driving from New York City to California," recalls Lansing. "He had just seen the movie, and said he had to see the field before it was plowed up. If only he had known what would follow."
What has followed has been a steady stream of visitors—nearly 300,000 through last November—from around the country and the world. Men and women, old and young, come for a day (or more) with camcorders, coolers, bats, balls and gloves. They celebrate birthdays and wedding anniversaries. One man sprinkled his father's ashes over the pitcher's mound. Last July, presidential candidate Pat Buchanan gave a speech in rightfield.
Becky DuBuisson was a visitor too. "My aunt and I had been planning a car trip across America in 1994," says DuBuisson, whose late husband had been a baseball fanatic. "Then I started having this one dream over and over. I had to be at the Field of Dreams at midnight on New Year's Eve with a hot dog and a root beer."
DuBuisson called Lansing when she got to Dyersville and asked for permission to fulfill her dream. "I usually don't allow people to come in the middle of the night," Lansing says, "but it seemed so important to her."
When DuBuisson and her aunt, Sheila Henning, arrived at Lansing's farm at midnight, they found the ball field covered with two inches of snow. They ran the basepaths. "It was so peaceful," says Becky. "We stayed for an hour."
The next day Becky and her aunt returned. Don was shoveling snow from his driveway. "I walked up to him and said, Tm Becky. I wanted to introduce myself and thank you....' "
Don interrupted. "Thanks. I knew you'd come back."