is Madisons Hydroplane Museum?
saw it in the movie Madison,
but it doesnt really exist
Special to RoundAbout
(June 24, 2005) This seems to be a frequently
asked question since the April 2005 release of the movie Madison.
Many downtown businesses and the Madison Area Convention and Visitors
Bureau have been answering this question.
One store owner replied, There isnt one here in Madison,
and the person countered, I know there is. We saw it in the movie!
by Don Ward
Madison Train Station really
exists as a museum but not
for hydroplane racing.
The owner had to explain that the hydroplane museum was
only a set for the movie. The movie crew used the Madison Railroad Depot
on First Street and stocked it with several hydroplane items from local
collectors to create a unique Hydroplane Museum. I would peek through
the window to just get a glimpse.
During the 1999 Madison Chautauqua, the Jefferson County Historical
Society opened it to the public for a small admission fee. As you can
guess, our family spent some time viewing the museum. It made me wonder,
with all of the race boat history we have in this town, why Madison
doesnt have a race boat museum? Later, the Historical Society
did have some hydroplane and Regatta memorabilia on display in the museum
for a short time.
Having a Regatta & Race Boat Museum in downtown Madison is not a
new idea. Many people through the years have tried to get a museum started.
The late Bob Snelling tried to get one going and was willing to donate
his large Regatta and hydroplane memorabilia collection to it.
He later approached me and said, Herin, are you still interested
in my collection? The Regatta is still dragging their feet about getting
a museum started, so I guess Ill just have to sell it to you.
As Bob showed me his collection, he spent several hours telling me stories
about each piece in his collection. Graham Taylor has written articles
in the past of people trying to get a museum started. He, along with
Dave Taylor, Denny Jackson, John Knoebel, Wilbur Heitz and Dan Carter,
looked at a location for the museum but decided it wasnt close
enough to the river. Tony Steinhardt, who had a part in the creation
of the movie museum, has looked into the possibility of a museum in
If these people cant get a museum started, why do I think that
there is any chance of pulling it off. It goes back to the movie Madison.
The scene had the fictional character Travis taking a group
of children through the museum as Jim McCormick (played by actor Jim
Caviezel) watched from across the street.
With excitement in his voice, Travis tells the children the history
about Madison, hydroplane racing and the Miss Madison. Then he says,
Isnt that something all that history in this
little bitty town?
The children agree as he continues, This is important for you
all to remember this stuff, because we have a responsibility to keep
this stuff going.
Every year, my family helps me set up our booth during the Madison Regatta
so we can display items from past race teams and Regattas for purchase.
We enjoy the excitement of seeing people looking at the memorabilia
and hearing their stories of past Regattas and their favorite thunderboats.
We plan to be moving from this area, and it may be our last time setting
up at the Regatta. It would be great to be able to see a museum when
we come back to visit.
If not, I guess, Ill always have my personal museum in our home
located in a small village in Northwest Illinois. Please stop by our
booth in the parking lot of Tugboats Eatery and tell me your thoughts
about a Race Boat Museum.
I will have a signup sheet for those people interested in making this
a reality, and I will try to get it into the right hands.
I daydream a lot about a Hydroplane Museum located a block up from the
pit ramp and a block down from the City Hall, where people can drop
in to see many displays from past Regattas and a place to restore and
display the Miss Madison hulls and boats that won here in Madison. As
you can tell, I have a certain building in mind, but it may not be an
option. The museum would have ties with the City of Madison, the Madison
Regatta and Miss Madison Inc., but would be its own nonprofit organization.
Yes, it would take a lot of grants, donations and volunteers to pull
it all together. Wouldnt it be great, when people ask, Wheres
the Hydroplane Museum? We can show them. I can see it happening
and, as Travis said, We have the responsibility to keep this stuff
Duane Herin owns Herins Collectibles in Madison, Ind.
He wrote this column for RoundAbout.
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