As tens of thousands of people descend upon downtown Davenport for the Quad-City Times Bix 7 and Street Fest every year, local vendors are always prepared for things to get a little crazy.
“We are expecting things to be nutso buttso,” said Andrew Lopez, co-owner of LoPiez Pizza, a few days before Saturday's race. This year's Bix was the first for the pizza joint.
For many downtown businesses, the Bix ushers in one of the biggest business booms of the year.
“We call it the Quad-Cities homecoming,” said Kyle Carter, executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership. “... We’ve got people from all over the country coming.” Before the race, he put his crowd estimate at about 25,000 people.
The tourism element is huge, said Visit Quad Cities CEO Dave Herrell — more than 60% of the race participants come in from more than 50 miles away, and elite runners represented 16 foreign countries this year.
“The running community, they all talk, and there’s this camaraderie and community,” Herrell said.
Only eight months into his role, this race was Herrell’s first Bix experience too.
“I’m incredibly excited this year to see the Bix,” he said before the race. “... It’s a signature event for the Quad Cities. It has this incredible longevity and tradition. What’s unique about it is it’s not your run-of-the-mill sporting event or road race. The fact that it’s so authentic helps the Quad-Cities, in terms of how we brand our events and opportunities.”
Some businesses feel the “Bix boost” more than others. Rubys Beers, Bikes, Brats — at 429 E. 3rd Street, and sharing a building with LoPiez — said their proximity to the race’s medical tent hinders the bump.
“It’s still one of our busier days of the year, but … [the medical tent] does make it a little hard for people to get to us,” owner Chris Torres said. “We do pull a good crowd.”
This year, Rubys hosted a Rubix Bix Party, with Rubix Cube competitions and a new camel burger.
City Clerk Brian Krupp confirmed that several downtown bars had requested permits to host outdoor events. One venue that didn't: Me & Billy.
“The reason is we’ve had a couple of those weekends where we’ve set everything up … and it rains, and it’s hard to make up those expenses,” owner Bill Collins said. “If it does rain, [everyone] leaves downtown, and it’s hard to get them to come back.”
Still, Me & Billy was expecting a “very big weekend,” Collins said. His daughter worked on a drink bucket special, but otherwise it was like any other weekend, albeit busier than usual.
“We’re operating pretty much business as usual.”
After an unusually harsh winter and devastating flooding, Herrell said pushing a “message of positivity” is critical.
“I’m fully anticipating people connecting with that message,” he said before the race. “It’s going to be a great chance to bring people back downtown and showcase what downtown Davenport has to offer.”