The Wisconsin Halls of Fame

May 29, 2009

I spent Memorial Day Weekend in Chamberlain, South Dakota, a lovely Missouri River town in the south central portion of the state. If you’re traveling by car from Wisconsin, Chamberlain is down Interstate 90 a patch from the South Dakota Corn Palace in Mitchell, but a few hours shy of the Badlands, the Black Hills, a free glass of ice water at Wall Drug and that well-publicized tourist mecca, Mt. Rushmore.

One thing few people know about Chamberlain (South Dakotans included, I would venture to say) is that it’s home to the South Dakota Hall of Fame. Tom Daschle, Tom Brokaw and Mary Hart are in the Hall, as are Sitting Bull, Lawrence Welk and Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Not surprisingly, there are even categories hailing the state’s finest “Professional Cowboys” and its “Unsung Heroes and Good Hearts.” Each year, one South Dakota artist and one writer receives special commendation, too.

During the long car trip back to Madison on Monday, my traveling companions and I wondered why our adopted home state has no such entity. After all, Wisconsin has no shortage of creative thinkers who have led important lives–in politics, the arts, conservation, athletics, academics.  We have our unsung heroes and good hearts here, too–I know a few of them myself. And while I’m strapped to come up with a Badger State cowboy of note, I’m hoping blog readers will prove me wrong.  Who is Wisconsin’s Casey Tibbs?  And who are Wisconsin’s heroes of the past and present? Let us know whom you would induct into my imaginary Wisconsin Hall of Fame.

Finally, even though we don’t have a central Wisconsin Hall of Fame, we do in fact have many specialized Halls of Fame. Thanks to Michael Goc’s recent post, Comfort in a Centennial, I had already learned about the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame. Here are a few more I found online:

Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum

Snowmobile Hall of Fame

Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame

Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame

Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame

Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame

Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame

–Tammy Kempfert