"Hometown Heroes" arrives in November at the Port St. Joe Public Library {Special to The Star}
The Smithsonian exhibit will fill the Florida History Room at the library {Special to The Star}

Earlier this summer the Port St. Joe public library sought help from the community with sports photos.

Now, the library would like some input and expertise on how to make an upcoming exhibit, a traveling celebration of sports and community courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute, a touchdown.

Or, as they put it in soccer, a gggoooooooaaaaaalllllll.

Library officials and volunteers will hold an "interest" meeting 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, Sept. 5 as something of a kickoff (sorry) event aimed at making "Hometown Heroes" as successful as possible.

They folks at the library urge anyone with an interest in assisting in the staging of the exhibit to please attend and invite anyone they believe might have an interest.

The more the merrier, as they say.

"We can benefit from the expertise in marketing, fundraising and/or event planning," said Mimi Minnick, a volunteer helping coordinate the event, "and in soliciting sports memorabilia, photographs and stories.

"Sharing this exhibit is truly a team project."

Nancy Brockman, coordinator of Gulf County Libraries, put out the call earlier this year for photos of local athletics.

Those photos will become part of the exhibit's displays which celebrates the role of sports in a community.

"Hometown sports are more than just games," Minnick said. "They unite us and help us come together as Americans.

"If we're not playing sports, we're watching them."

The exhibit celebrates the atmosphere found at Shark Stadium or Gator Field during fall Friday evenings, or draped over the ballpark anywhere in the county during the summer.

"We need your help," Minnick said, urging public engagement with the exhibit. "Please join us as we bring the Smithsonian home."

"Hometown Heroes" is one of six traveling exhibits that comprise the Smithsonian Institute's "Museum on Main Street" program.

"Museum on Main Street" provides the Smithsonian an avenue to extend its reach into smaller, rural areas, communities with an average population of 8,000.

"It's really to get Smithsonian quality exhibits out in rural areas," Brockman said.

The program has brought Smithsonian exhibits to more than 1,400 communities across the country since 1994.

The idea came out of a survey of humanities councils and small cultural institutions which underscored that rural areas tend to be isolated from things such as the arts and museums.

Libraries and small museums, while lacking in financial assets, were perfect platforms for programs as they serve as community centers, according to the Smithsonian website.

The exhibit will fill the Florida History room in the library during its stay.

"It's really, really neat," Brockman said. "It all has to do with how sports are part of small towns.

"We can bring a local flavor to it."

Funding for the exhibit was secured through a grant from the Florida Humanities Council.

"They are a wonderful way for us to expand our offerings for the community," Brockman said.

Brockman and Minnick underwent training required to assemble, disassemble, understand and explain the exhibit.

The exhibit includes a series of panels pertaining to American hometown sports and there is a seat of bleachers from which folks can lift a seat cushion and learn about local or national sports.

The library will also add a slide show of local "hometown heroes" of the athletic fields as well as high school yearbook pages on sports.

Here's a video introduction to the exhibit: https://museumonmainstreet.org/content/hometown-teams#ExhibitionDetails