DANVERS — Danvers Days has been an annual celebration for many years in this McLean County community of 1,163. Yet, Danvers never had a day like Sunday.
The Stanley Cup was featured in the Danvers Days parade courtesy of Jay Blunk, senior vice president for business operations with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup title in June, their first since 1961. National Hockey League tradition allows players, coaches and management personnel from the winning team each to have a day with the Cup.
So Blunk, a Normal Community High School and Illinois State University graduate, used his 24 hours to make stops in Bloomington-Normal on Saturday night and Sunday morning before taking the Cup to Danvers for the afternoon parade.
“I wanted to make sure we brought it to Central Illinois because I know there are a lot of Blackhawk fans,” said Blunk, whose parents, Dave and Sharon, live in Danvers. “It was a thrill to see people get a chance to get a picture with the Cup who probably would never have that opportunity.
“The Cup has this enormous power, even for people who aren’t hockey fans. To see it here in Danvers and this part of Illinois was great.”
It attracted a parade crowd Dave Blunk estimated at a third larger than in past years. Many lining the streets wore Blackhawks’ jerseys or T-shirts.
Bob Stevenson stood out in that regard. The Eureka resident had on a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey. Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, he roots for the Penguins, the 2009 champions.
“I figured I wasn’t going to get to Pittsburgh, so I might as well come here,” Stevenson said. “This is phenomenal. What is it, a town of 1,100? That’s something, isn’t it?”
Kristina Dunlap thought so. Her house is near the start of the parade route.
She watched from her yard and proudly called it “a big deal.”
In the past two weeks, the Stanley Cup has been at the Eiffel Tower, Niagara Falls, a Jimmy Buffett concert and, now, Danvers.
“It just shows the appeal that Cup has and the history of being able to take it all over the world,” said Steve Endsley of Bloomington. “We have our little corner of the world here.”
Jay Blunk said he has been moved by the passion the 118-year-old Cup evokes, adding, “When you’re with it, you feel somewhat unworthy because there are so many great names on it.”
Among Blunk’s Bloomington-Normal stops were Lucca Grill, his grandparents’ graves, the church where his parents were married, Fell Park, the Normal Theater, his former elementary school (Eugene Field), the Marriott Hotel, Pub II and Maggie Miley’s.
Riding with him in the parade was Annika Tiede, a 9-year-old from Normal who has had three liver transplants and recently won a gold medal in the U.S. Transplant Games.
She sat next to a trophy Mark Ralph of Bloomington called “unique.”
“It’s the only traveling trophy in all of sports,” Ralph said. “In every other sport, they make a new one each year for the champion. This trophy is the only one for hockey.”
That it came to Danvers was stirring for Sharon Blunk, whose son worked 22 years for the Chicago Cubs before joining the Blackhawks in 2008.
“It’s been quite a trip,” she said. “Who would have imagined we would ever see this day?”