Maybe it never entered your mind, but the Quad-Cities is a captivating place to live. It’s always been that way. It’s really never been merely a cluster of old river towns. It’s special!
There is something about us that is difficult to define, but for the next 50 days — beginning Monday — we’re going to try. Newsroom staffers will be writing about 50 defining things in the Quad-Cities. One a day. Don’t get turned off. Our 50 short pictorial “chapters” are not starchy history. Our defining things take in everything from ice cream to the gleaming glass palaces of commerce.
Our defining things are people and places … murderous thugs and crafty inventors, a congenial stroll along Old Man River — which, by way of mention, runs east to west instead of due south — and little gems that even lifelong residents likely don't know.
It’s all here in the Quad-Cities, from truck-eating bridges to the home of the steel-blade plow that changed the way Farmer Brown tills our black earth fields. It’s the born-again Hotel Blackhawk, which draws admiring gasps and has President Barack Obama’s favorite pork chop on the menu.
The Quad-Cities is internationally statuesque, if that’s where your interest lies, thanks to an artist named Isabel whose whimsical concrete pieces can be found in homes and galleries and embassies over the globe. There are unique granite monuments to our past in our cemeteries, and even a statue of Germania that raised shocked eyebrows until a measurement proved her not to be overly ample.
The Quad-Cities is a jigsaw puzzle of people like Happy Joe Whitty, who built a pizza empire with only two nickels to rub together. One of our ice cream parlors made a peppermint dessert for a White House reunion of Hillary Clinton's college class. Another built a multi-generational family favorite on a $25 gamble taken on a hot fudge recipe. We’re fun and food, daring visitors to try the gut-busting Magic Mountain.
Fun? The Quad-Cities is identified by three letters, B-I-X, the jazz genius whose disciples flock to town annually to hear wailing clarinets. In the winter, we unwrap the holiday season with an arena full of Christmas trees and glittery spirit.
There is the thump of 40,000 feet in the Quad-City Times Bix 7 road race, and the big-time John Deere Classic on rolling hills near the Rock River makes the duffers envious. We're sports nuts, with one of the most picturesque ballparks in the country on our Iowa shore. We have professional ice hockey in the winter, and have produced Olympians and Paralympians. Our colleges field national award-winners in athletics — and academic leaders, too.
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In the swelter of summer, we are home to county fairs that draw 30,000 for country crooners. Traveling stage shows and stars never pass up the opportunity to play the Quad-Cities. We also have the dubious distinction of being the last stage trod by the great Cary Grant.
Lindbergh and Earhart have landed here. So have Sinatra, Elton John and Justin Bieber. We've hosted presidents, presidential wannabees and royalty.
Our 50 defining things? Shoot, there are hundreds. Fifty is merely a starting point.