Sports & Recreation
Navigating Missouri’s Lower Mississippi River PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Sports & Recreation
Written by Tom Uhlenbrock   
Friday, 20 June 2014 11:43

Paddling the Lower Mississippi River

Caruthersville, Mo. – There was no brass band playing to greet John Ruskey and his five crewmates as they paddled their 30-foot wood canoe into Caruthersville to end an 11-day voyage on the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

Instead of trombones and tubas, lightning flashed, thunder boomed and rain fell. Lots of rain.

“That’s part of the adventure, you have to accept what Mother Nature throws at you,” said Ruskey, shrugging off the storm. “That becomes part of the stories that come off the river with you.”

Ruskey, 50, owns Quapaw Canoe Co. in Clarksdale, Miss., which made the handsome cypress strip canoe, dubbed “the Grasshopper,” that the travelers arrived in. The “voyageur canoe” is similar to the big boats paddled by early explorers and pioneers.

Ruskey also is director of the Lower Mississippi River Foundation, which he founded in 2011. The foundation’s mission is to spread the word about the beauty of floating the stretch of the Mississippi from its confluence with the Missouri north of St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico.

Over the last two years, Ruskey has gathered information for his Rivergator, a paddler’s guide to the Lower Mississippi; it’s available free online at The website currently has stories, photos, maps and information on the stretch from Caruthersville to Vicksburg, Miss.

“Most people only experience the Mississippi from a bridge, which always goes over an industrial area that is not attractive,” Ruskey said. “And the locals will tell you, ‘Don’t get on the river; it’s ugly.’

“People just don’t think of the Mississippi as a place to go and enjoy the outdoors. But the fishermen know. It’s like a greatly held secret.”
Ruskey and his crew now have traveled the Mississippi from St. Louis to Baton Rouge, La., a total of almost 1,000 miles. Along the way, they’ve accumulated data on camping spots, points of interest and potential obstacles, all of which will be posted online by Oct. 15. In 2015, they’ll add 235 miles through New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico to complete their Lower Mississippi Water Trail.

“We want to share the wild aspects of the Lower Mississippi River for paddlers,” Ruskey said.
“Primarily this is for advanced paddlers in expedition-style canoes or sea kayaks. Those are made for long-distance travel and are capable in all the challenges the Mississippi presents – waves, winds, long crossings, quick crossings in between towboats.”

Their argument, that much of the Lower Mississippi is wild and scenic, was evident in the 307-mile stretch from St. Louis to Caruthersville, Ruskey said.

“For about half the way, all you see is big trees, big bluffs, big islands thriving with wildlife and the big river that ties them all together,” he said.

“The bluffs below St. Louis were just spectacular, particularly around Herculaneum and Crystal City,” he added. “In the back chutes, behind the islands, we saw deer, coyotes, bald eagles, numerous songbirds. At Osborne Chute, below Crystal City, we saw three eagles feasting on a gar. Sunrise on the limestone cliffs at Trail of Tears State Park was beautiful.”

Paddlers will share the river with towboats and barges, but Ruskey said that was not a problem.

“The towboats are slow-moving and very predictable,” he said. “Normally, on any stretch of the river, you’ll see them about an hour before they actually pass. That gives any perceptive paddler time to predict where they’ll go, and how to maneuver around them.”

Getting more paddlers out on the Lower Mississippi will have a beneficial impact by making more people conscious of the landscape of the river’s flood plain, Ruskey said.

“Not only do paddlers clean up places they camp, but they also become impassioned users of the river,” he said. “That leads to more public land along the river and better decisions about its use.”

As far as the occasional thunderstorm, that is just part of life on the Mississippi, Ruskey said.

“You might be slightly uncomfortable, like getting mud between your toes or sunburn,” he said. “But these are things that make you remember the experience and what wilderness is all about.”

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News Releases - Sports & Recreation
Written by Scott Kornberg   
Thursday, 19 June 2014 14:16
New ride in Party Plaza of Modern Woodmen Park will be open for games and non-game day amusement hours    

DAVENPORT, Iowa. (June 19, 2014) – The Quad Cities River Bandits and Main Street Amusements will open another new ride at Modern Woodmen Park Thursday night, as “Space Camp” makes its debut at the ballpark.

“Space Camp” is an electrically-powered four-seat gyroscope manufactured by Amusements International. “Space Camp” will spin its four riders upside-down and around in a roll and tumble motion to give them the feeling of being weightless in space. Developed from NASA's gyroscope used to train astronauts, the ride is unique in its ability to carry four people simultaneously through the experience of weightless motion found in space. It is also unique in that the degree to which the gyroscope rotates is in direct correlation to the weight of each of the four passengers – change the weight of any one passenger and the gyroscope will spin differently.

“Space Camp is another exciting and unique addition to the amusements lineup at Modern Woodmen Park,” said River Bandits owner Dave Heller. “We have lifted people high above the ballpark on the Ferris wheel, and sent them soaring on the Zip Line. Now they can experience the weightless thrill of outer space like the NASA astronauts with Space Camp!”

“Space Camp” will require three amusement coupons to ride. Riders must be between 54 and 74 inches in height. “Space Camp” and the 105-foot Ferris wheel are both open during all River Bandits home games, normally beginning 90 minutes before the scheduled first pitch. The rides are also open every Saturday morning – weather permitting – from 10 a.m. to noon, as well as weekend non-game days: Fridays 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

UP NEXT: The River Bandits are home at 7 p.m. Thursday for a free hat giveaway on Modern Woodmen Night and Pack the Truck Night benefiting the River Bend Food Bank. To order any of the River Bandits 2014 ticket plans - with new lower prices - call the River Bandits box office at 563-324-3000. Season ticket and mini-plan packages start at just seven games and begin at less than $40. Call a River Bandits account representative today to choose your seats and get the details of our various mini-plan packages.

Finalists Selected in Iowa State Fair Value-Priced New Food Contest PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Sports & Recreation
Written by Lori Chappell   
Wednesday, 18 June 2014 15:55

DES MOINES, IA (06/18/2014)(readMedia)-- The Iowa State Fair has named five finalists in the New Food Contest. Fairgoers will vote during the Fair to determine the winner. The value-priced offerings along with countless other foods will be available August 7-17.

The Brownie Blitz offers a delicious combination of cream cheese brownie bits, whipped cream, chocolate syrup and coconut. This sweet treat is available at Bauders Ice Cream on the southwest side of the Agriculture Building.

The new Caprese Salad On-a-Stick offers a snack that is both tasty and healthy. The mouthwatering skewer of cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella cheese and balsamic vinaigrette is available at all Salad Bowl locations.

The Rib Shack's new Smoked Brisket and Bacon Mac N Cheese, available in Walnut Square, is topped with chunks of smoked brisket and apple wood smoked bacon and tossed in a creamy three cheese sauce.

The Three Buck Bowl features two crispy potato skins filled with fluffy scrambled eggs, fresh salsa and shredded cheddar cheese and is available at Steer N Stein located on the Grand Concourse.

Funnel Cake Sticks made with vanilla, chocolate or strawberry funnel cake batter, served on-a-stick and topped with icing, can be found at Arnold's Concessions on Rock Island Avenue across from the Livestock Pavilion.

Other value-priced contest entries included Zombie Cones in six sour flavors, homemade vanilla bean, caramel, chocolate or maple bacon Jumbo Toasted Marshmallows On-a-stick and a Red Velvet Flurry ice cream treat. Fairgoers can try each of these offerings for just $3.

Concessionaires were asked to submit a new value-priced item for $3 or less. The food entries were judged based on taste/flavor, presentation/appearance, value and creativity/originality. Fairgoers will be able to try each new food during the Fair and vote for their favorite finalist. The winning item will be announced during the Fair.

Other new foods this year include Pineapple Inside Out Funnel Cake, Chicken Fried Bacon, Chocolate Covered Bacon Nougat On-a-stick, Chocolate Covered Cookies N Cream On-a-stick, Mexican Grilled Corn On-the-cob and Tater Dogs On-a-stick. In addition, this year's newest Fair Square, Fair-berry, a tasty blend of crisped rice cereal, strawberry puree and melted marshmallow, will debut for just $2. For a complete list of new foods including descriptions and locations, visit

"Nothing Compares" to the 2014 Iowa State Fair, August 7-17. The Fairgrounds are located at East 30th and East University Avenue, just 10 minutes east of downtown Des Moines. Discounted gate admission tickets are on sale now through our convenient print at home ticket option at For more information, call 800/545-FAIR or visit

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News Releases - Sports & Recreation
Written by Marco LaNave   
Monday, 16 June 2014 15:41

Quad Cities hits four home runs in a game for the first time since July 12, 2012

DAVENPORT, Iowa (June 15, 2014) – Tyler White smashed two home runs and Chase McDonald and Brian Holberton each added another as the River Bandits pounded the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 13-2 Sunday at Modern Woodmen Park.

Quad Cities hit four home runs in a game for the first time since July 12, 2012 at Lansing and for the first time at home since August 31, 2011 against Clinton.

With Quad Cities up 7-2, White led off the seventh with a home run onto the left field berm. Holberton followed with a double before Wisconsin reliever Harvey Martin got Thomas Lindauer and Jake Rodriguez to pop out and line out to short, respectively. However, Martin then yielded an RBI double to James Ramsay, who drove in two runs with a walk in a 3-for-5 day, to make it 9-2. Chan-Jong Moon walked and then Brett Phillips singled to left to plate Ramsay, making the score 10-2. Quad Cities batted around in the inning, scoring three runs on four hits while leaving the bases loaded.

As he did in the seventh, White led off the eighth with his second home run of the game. Again a Wisconsin reliever, this time Rodolfo Fernandez, got the next two batters before giving up a single to Rodriguez, a walk to Ramsey and a two-run double to Moon to make the score 13-2.

The River Bandits got the scoring going on McDonald’s three-run shot way out to left-center in the first. The first baseman would finish 2-for-3 with two walks, one of six Bandits to accumulate multiple hits in the outing. All nine starters in the Quad Cities lineup reached base at least once.

Holberton’s leadoff shot out to right in the third made the score 6-0 River Bandits. Holberton was one of three Bandits with three hits along with Ramsay and Rodriguez. Ramsay scored four runs in the game, becoming the first Quad Cities player to do so since Carlos Correa accomplished the feat on April 21, 2012.

Armed with a 6-0 lead, Michael Feliz (3-1) continued to rip through the Wisconsin lineup. The right-hander went five innings, only allowing two unearned runs on six hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out four. Jandel Gustave worked the final four scoreless frames for Quad Cities to earn his first save of the season, scattering four hits with a walk and three punchouts.

Clint Terry (0-1) took the loss for Wisconsin, surrendering six runs on six hits with four walks and no strikeouts in just two innings. Wisconsin snapped their four-game winning streak to go to 36-33 and Quad Cities finished the first half of the season above .500 at 35-34.

UP NEXT: The River Bandits are home at 7 p.m. Thursday for Modern Woodmen Night and Pack the Truck Night benefiting the River Bend Food Bank. To order any of the River Bandits 2014 ticket plans - with new lower prices - call the River Bandits box office at 563-324-3000. Season ticket and mini-plan packages start at just seven games and begin at less than $40. Call a River Bandits account representative today to choose your seats and get the details of our various mini-plan packages.

Governor Quinn to Sign Legislation to Create New Lottery Instant Game for Special Olympics Illinois PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Sports & Recreation
Written by Katie Hickey   
Monday, 16 June 2014 08:48

“Go for the Gold” Ticket Proceeds Expected to Raise Nearly $700,000 for Illinois’ Athletes

NORMAL – Governor Pat Quinn today will visit the 2014 Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremonies to sign legislation that creates a "Go for the Gold" Lottery ticket to benefit Special Olympics Illinois. Proceeds from this new scratch-off game will provide funding for increased opportunities for Special Olympics athletes across the state. Today's action is part of Governor Quinn's agenda to ensure all people have the opportunity to follow their dreams and reach their full potential.

“Special Olympics Illinois is a treasure to our state and to the many Illinois residents who benefit from their spirit of giving,” Governor Quinn said. “We are so proud of our athletes and their determination both on and off the playing field. With this new Lottery ticket, we can help Special Olympics Illinois ensure more of our competitors are able to ‘Go for the Gold.’”

“We are incredibly grateful for this new initiative that will allow Special Olympics Illinois to continue transforming the lives of both current and future generations of Special Olympics Athletes,” Special Olympics Illinois President and CEO Dave Breen said. “Funds raised from this game will lead to further innovation and program growth, and expand opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, their families and volunteers throughout Illinois.”

Senate Bill 219, sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) and State Representative Frances Ann Hurley (D-Chicago), creates the new $2 "Go for the Gold" scratch-off instant ticket. The ticket will be available early next year at 8,200 Lottery retailers across Illinois and is expected to raise nearly $700,000 in its first year for Special Olympics athletes and events across Illinois. The revenue will be used to support athlete training, competitions and programs for present and future Special Olympic athletes. It cannot be used for institutional, organization, or community-based overhead, indirect costs or levies. The new law takes effect immediately.

“Today we are honoring our Special Olympic Athletes by creating the ‘Go for the Gold’ lottery ticket,” Senator Hunter said. “This ticket will raise much-needed dollars to fund statewide training programs and competitions. Some of the money will also help our next generation of Olympians by supporting the Special Children’s Charities Fund.”

“Go for the Gold” joins the ranks of other Lottery specialty games that raise money for specific causes like Illinois Veterans, the fight against breast cancer, MS research and assistance for people living with HIV/AIDS. “Go for the Gold” tickets have potential prizes of up $20,000, and overall odds of winning a prize will be about 1 in 4.65 tickets.

“Specialty instant games like ‘Go for the Gold’ are what the Lottery is all about,” Lottery Director Michael Jones said. “I’m confident that once this game becomes available, thousands of people will ask for it by name as a way to provide valuable funding for Special Olympics athletes across Illinois. It is a great cause that the Lottery is proud to be supporting it.”

A number of the athletes gathered in Normal for this year’s statewide Special Olympics competition are leaving this weekend to attend the 2014 USA Games, along with over 3,000 Special Olympics athletes from around the country.

Special Olympics Illinois provides opportunities for more than 21,000 athletes, 40,000 volunteers and thousands more people statewide through 18 Area programs in all 102 counties of the state. Special Olympics began in Illinois with the first games at Chicago’s Soldier Field in July 1968. There are now more than four million Special Olympic athletes in 170 countries.

The Special Olympics mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

Governor Quinn has been recognized both nationally and locally as a champion for people with disabilities. Two years ago, the Governor launched his Rebalancing Initiative to improve the state’s system of caring for those with disabilities and mental health challenges. The initiative has successfully moved hundreds of people with disabilities out of institutions and into community-based care. The Governor has also introduced, fought for and signed the Employment First law that breaks down barriers for people with developmental disabilities to increase opportunities for employment. Just last week, the Governor signed an Executive Order creating the Employment First Liaison who will work with state agencies to develop a five-year plan to improve community integrated private employment outcomes for people with disabilities.


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