As the City of Wayland is gearing up for the opening weekend of the Smithsonian Institute’s national traveling “Hometown Teams” exhibit, the Mountain Sports Hall of Fame has put together an exhibit of its own to vaunt the long legacy of Eastern Kentucky schools’ athletic successes.
Wayland Mayor and Mountain Sports Hall of Fame founder Jerry Fultz said he has been floored by the generosity and interest of regional individuals and schools, who have donated and brought in uniforms, trophies, balls, and a wealth of photos to bring the local exhibit to life.
There are hundreds of interesting items on display, from schools all across the region, including actual game footballs from a 1928 national tournament in Chicago, in which Knott County’s Carr Creek High School beat teams from Albuquerque, New Mexico and Austin, Texas.
In addition to a wealth of memorabilia from the Wayland Wasps, the exhibit features letter jackets from other Floyd County high schools of yesteryear, including the Garrett High School Black Devils, the McDowell High School Daredevils and the Martin High School Purple Flash. Joining them on a nearby table are jackets from the schools that will soon join them as being consigned to the history books: Allen Central’s Rebels and the South Floyd Raiders.
Local schools have already scheduled tours of the exhibit, and for Fultz, the goal is not just to enjoy nostalgia, but to bring the history to life so it can inspire the next generation.
“That’s the value. It’s not what we’re seeing, but I hope it’s what it instills in younger kids. I want them to connect with our past. I want them to be proud of who we were and who we could be. When you think about the best in the state, it’s here, right here in the mountains.”
The old memorabilia and the recent are all interspersed in Wayland’s exhibit, because for Fultz, preserving local sports history is not about one particular golden era, but rather, a golden region which has seen enduring success.
“I hope when schoolkids go through here, it motivates them, when they look around and they see Mr. Basketballs, and state championships, from people who are right here at home. From Pike County to Magoffin to Lawrence to Johnson, this little area has produced the best we have in the state. I hope that motivates the kids out there right now.”
The Smithsonian exhibit opens on Saturday, March 18 at the Wayland gym annex. The opening ceremonies take place next weekend, with a Pee Wee Reese impersonator and Kentucky Humanities Council Executive Director Bill Goodman speaking on March 25.