Talk about star treatment. The guest of honor rolled up to the U.S. Cellular store on Bloomington's east side Tuesday in a luxury Chevrolet SUV, flanked by security.
Most celebrities prefer to be fashionably late. This one was about a half-hour early.
And yet, it was a long time coming - 88 years to be exact. For the Chicago White Sox fans lining a sidewalk and spilling out into the parking lot, this day in the sun - a blissfully warm February sun - was worth the wait.
The World Series trophy won by the White Sox in October, their first since 1917, made a stop in Bloomington as part of a 45-city tour across Illinois and northwest Indiana.
For a $10 donation to Chicago White Sox Charities and the United Way, fans were allowed to get their picture taken with the two-feet tall, sterling silver trophy.
Mike Gernentz of Cullom and his stepson, 9-year-old Kyle Robinson, arrived at about 1:30 p.m., well ahead of the scheduled 4 p.m. start. They wound up first in line - a.k.a., the leadoff spot.
"We just wanted to see the trophy," Gernentz said. "We didn't want to be last in line."
An Odell native, the 52-year-old Gernentz grew up in a household where his father "wouldn't let us go to Cubs games." If you wanted to eat, you cheered for the Sox.
Tuesday, Gernentz and those behind him were still digesting a title many thought would never come.
Best of all?
"They did it ahead of the Cubs," Gernentz said.
Later, Frank Piejko of Bloomington shouted a message for Cubs fans as he left in his pickup truck: "Tell them they need to bring a trophy of their own down here and experience this. This is wonderful."
"The â'Wait 'Til Next Year' trophy," Piejko said, smiling.
Clearly, the spoils of victory include bashing the crosstown rival.
The Cubs have Wrigley Field, frequent sellouts and a national fan base cultivated by the late Harry Caray and WGN television. The Sox have the ultimate trump card. Tuesday's tour stop provided photo evidence.
Troy Gensler planned to get the shot of him and his 10-year-old daughter, Lindsey, enlarged and placed on the wall of his Toluca home. It will be next to framed front pages from the Chicago Tribune chronicling the team's postseason run, along with a World Series ball.
Somewhere, the 36-year-old Gensler also has the red White Sox cap he received on Cap Day in 1974, his first Sox game.
While the Genslers wore replica Sox jerseys, Bloomington's John Felkamp was in full uniform - the one he wears each year at the White Sox Fantasy Camp.
The 57-year-old Felkamp is a lifelong fan originally from Chicago's south side. Like every Sox fan over 40, he'll tell you his first Sox experience was going to a Sunday doubleheader against the Yankees.
Did they ever play anyone else?
Keep 'em coming
These days, the retired Felkamp goes to 25 home games a year - "I put a lot of miles on the car," he said - and looks forward to more titles.
"This is not once in a lifetime. This is first in a lifetime," he said.
"Every day of my life - and my wife (Donna) hates hearing this - it (the championship) is really very, very special," Felkamp added.
After posing with the trophy, Felkamp ran along the sidewalk and high-fived those in line en route to his car, which bears the license plate "GOUWSOX."
Felkamp was among about 450 people to take advantage of the photo op before the trophy was packed up around 7 p.m. Not a bad turnout in the heart of Cubs-Cardinals country.
Christine O'Reilly, senior director of community relations for the White Sox, said the tour had raised more than $70,000 for White Sox Charities prior to Tuesday.
The total is now higher thanks to the likes of 87-year-old George Kitterman of Normal, 69-year-old Gene Jontry of Normal, 43-year-old Mike Sondgeroth of Bloomington and Illinois State students Amber Pearson of Carpentersville, Melissa Kahn of Flossmoor and Jelsi Bolt of Palatine.
Sondgeroth, who grew up in Mendota, cherishes memories of his family packing sandwiches and heading to a doubleheader at Comiskey Park each year. Doubleheaders are virtually extinct, prohibiting Sondgeroth from sharing that experience with his children.
But Tuesday, with 10-year-old son Cole and 9-year-old daughter Erin at his side, he said, "I've got a better memory to share with them."
"They (the Sox) are World Series champions," he said. "As corny as it might seem, your team won a championship and you get to share in it."
You can't really put a price on that. Just know it's a lot more than $10.
Randy Kindred is a Pantagraph columnist. To leave him a voice mail, call 820-3402. By e-mail: email@example.com.