Celebration aims to restore landmark home of lawnmower legend, movie set
For one intoxicating summer in 1998, the little white house on Section Line Road at Laurens had all the excitement of Hollywood - directors running around yelling "Cut!" Stars like Sissy Spacek getting a tan between shots. Local residents getting a taste of the limelight as extras in one of the most talked-about films of 1999.
Alvin Straight died in 1996, but not until after he had captured the imagination of many. Straight and his brother Lyle have not spoken in ten years. When Straight receives a call that Lyle was stricken with a stroke, he decides that it is time to mend things with his brother.
Alvin Straight is a proud man. His hips are bad, but he refuses to use a walker, instead opting for two canes. His eyesight is bad, so he lost his license. He will not accept a ride to Mt. Zion, Wisconsin, where his brother is. Instead, he decides to ride his lawnmower from his home in Laurens, Iowa, to Mt. Zion, a trek of over 250 miles - meeting interesting people all along the way.
When famous producer David Lynch came to Laurens to film his movie about Straight shortly after Alvin's death, the tiny white house was featured prominently.
But time has not treated it well. It has become so dilapidated and overgrown that the city council marked it as a nuisance for potential demolition, although the site has drawn fans of the $7 million grossing film from across the country and from several foreign nations to see it.
A fundraiser celebration has been dreamed up to save the landmark. Plans call for repainting the house and trim, taking off a back porch, perhaps taking out a tree and if there are sufficient funds, to put up a fence around all or part of the property. All of the work to be done will be exterior work as the home is not open to visitors and of course, no charges are made.
The Straight Home Restoration Committee is planning a Fundraiser for Saturday, June 5 at Sportsman's Park, at the east edge of Laurens.
A 6 1/2 mile Lawn Mower ride - of course - is planned, leaving at approximately 1 p.m. and traveling on County blacktop roads and then returning to Laurens for a parade of lawnmowers down Third Street for those who were on the ride and continuing again to Sportsman's Park for more activities. The ride is expected to take 1 1/2 to two hours. The route will be supervised by County and City officers. Anyone who wishes to enter may do so, however youngsters must be responsible with driving a lawnmower. The cost is $20 and participants will receive a special t-shirt if they pre-register by May 21. Contact Steve Chaffee at The Laurens Sun office to register, 712-841-4541.
A "one pitch" softball game will begin at 2 p.m. at Sportsman's Park and teams are needed.
At 3 p.m. a Treasure Hunt for youngsters from 5 to 10 years of age will be held with the kids hunting for approximately $50 in coins in a pile of sand.
Karaoke by Don Schossow will be held from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Gazebo at Sportsman's Park. A pork patty barbecue picnic, with chips, baked beans, coleslaw, ice cream cup, lemonade or iced tea, will be served from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. or until the food is gone. The cost is $5.00 for adults and $3.50 for children 10 and under, with pre-schoolers eating free.
All profit from the events goes to the Straight House preservation project.