Best of the Quad Cities Fall 2009 Winners Print
News/Features - Feature Stories
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:00

When we decided to break up our 2009 Best of the Quad Cities into two sections, the change had several benefits. For one, it allowed us to include more categories while making it easier for people to participate by cutting down on the number of categories on each ballot. And it allowed us to write articles about more winners.

This second half of balloting covers Arts, Culture, & Entertainment; Night Life; Shopping & Services; and People. (Food & Dining; Civics & Government; Media; and Recreation were covered in our April 1, 2009, issue. Those results can be found here.)

Over the course of two issues, our readers have voted on the best of the Quad Cities in roughly 120 categories, and we've written articles about almost 30 winners. In two rounds of voting, we had nearly 750 valid ballots. (This time, we required participants to provide reasonable responses in 20 categories.)

We also decided, with our summer balloting, to release the results online first, and readers have used the comments section over the past few weeks to debate the inclusion of certain categories (gay bar), the scope of certain categories (actor/actress), and the winners (band). That feedback is valuable in crafting future ballots, but we hope it also it encourages future participation. If you don't like some of the results this time around, make sure you and your friends vote the next time.

Arts, Culture, & Entertainment
Local Band
1. The Dani Lynn Howe Band
2. Wicked Liz & the Bellyswirls
3. Gray Wolf Band

Venue for Live Music
2. Redstone Room
3. i wireless Center

Venue for Karaoke
2. Rusty Nail
3. Club Boulevard
3. The Hat

Venue/Organization for Live Theatre
1. Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse
2. Adler Theatre
3. Quad City Music Guild

Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse
Venue/Organization for Live Theatre

Discussing the original inspiration for the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse, producer/director Dennis Hitchcock says, "I attended a conference in New York in 1974, at which they talked about dinner theatre, and what made them go well, and which communities they worked in ... . And what they were describing was the Quad Cities - you know, like 380,000 people in one town. So I decided to pursue this, and ... well, you know the rest, I guess." Speaking as a completely partial and biased party: Yes, I do - " ... and local-theatre audiences lived happily ever after." As someone who spent 11 years employed by Mr. Hitchcock, and who attended productions for five years before my employment and (to date) nearly five years since, I couldn't be more pleased that Reader voters have yet again named Circa '21 our area's "best venue/organization for live theatre." With seasons boasting musicals, comedies, family presentations, and special concert events, casts composed of both local and national professional talents, top-tier technical design, six-course buffet-style dinners, and truly one of the most entertaining wait staffs you'll ever encounter (hello, my Bootlegger friends!), Circa '21 has been a beloved Quad Cities institution since its grand opening on June 11, 1977. And if you don't believe me, ask one of the many opening-night patrons who have been Circa '21 subscribers since the venue's very first season. "It's amazing to me, and incredibly satisfying and gratifying, that there are people who have been with us that long," marvels Hitchcock. The venue's 2010 offerings include the return of the ever-popular Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the debuting mystery/musical Whodunit?, and a new, full-length Bootlegger revue, and Hitchcock says that even after 32 years, "it's still such a rush, to be able to do for a living what most people do as a hobby. The community has been incredibly supportive, and for that I'll be forever thankful." For more information on the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse, visit - Mike Schulz

Place to Dance
1. 2nd Avenue
1. Club Boulevard
1. Shenanigan's Irish Pub

Club Boulevard
Place to Dance
When owner Steve Sapato turned The Boulevard reception hall into Club Boulevard in January, the goal wasn't to be the best in the Quad Cities. It was to create a nightclub on a par with those available in Chicago or Las Vegas. For now, the club, at 1801 10th Street in Moline, will have to settle with recognition in our Best of the Quad Cities poll. Voters tabbed it - along with 2nd Avenue, RIBCO, and Shenanigan's Irish Pub - as the best place to dance in the Quad Cities, and it also placed in the top three in karaoke (third), place for drinks (third), and bartender (Teresa Bailey, second). It hasn't quite turned out as planned. Boulevard - an upscale environment with futons, martinis, cocktail service, reserved seating, and a staff that will protect your seating - discovered that its target audience of people ages 35 to 60 wasn't into the heavy club music popular in big cities. (That typically starts at midnight.) "The mature audience that we were after wants requested music," Sapato said, and that's what Club Boulevard offers on Saturday nights, with plenty of tunes from the 1960s and '70s. Friday features a $1.99 buffet from 5 to 7 p.m. for the after-work crowd and dancing and karaoke until midnight. People who want quieter surroundings can lounge in the Eiffel Tower Room when it's not being used for a private event, and overall the facility has 5,000 square feet. The Gray Wolf Band (one of the top three local bands, according to our readers) plays there at least once a month, and Club Boulevard is encouraging patrons to wear costumes to the band's "Monster Mash" Halloween gig. For more information on Club Boulevard, visit - Jeff Ignatius

Educational Venue for Kids
1. Family Museum
2. Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre
3. Niabi Zoo

1. The Grand Parade (St. Patrick's Day)
2. Quad City Arts Festival of Trees Holiday Parade
3. Bettendorf's Old Fashioned 4th of July Parade

Grand Parade

John Scally is the chair of the Quad Cities St. Patrick Society Grand Parade, and given that the annual event covers two states, plays to tens of thousands of onlookers each year, and was earlier this year named the 13th-best St. Patrick's Day parade in the world by Digital City, one might expect a high rate of turnover in the position. Nope. Scally has helmed all 24 of them, and he'll be doing it again on March 13, 2010. "No one else wants to do it," he said, probably only half-joking. "It's a lot of work." In an issue of the Irish Spirit newsletter, Jerry McCabe recalled that he had to convince Scally to return each year; he "would say he was turning in his chairmanship at the end of every parade. After about the 10th year, it dawned on us that we could stop. He really liked doing it and was great at it!" The parade, the St. Patrick Society, and the Erin Feis summer festival were conceived by six guys of Irish descent who met weekly at Mac's Tavern. (The festival was meant to fund the parade.) The parade's uniqueness comes from crossing the Centennial Bridge, and the bi-state nature "has gotten us a lot of press," Scally said. In the early years, he added, there were as many as 3,500 participants in the parade, although that number has been whittled down. The parade costs less than $10,000, Scally said, and is supported in part by the Riverboat Development Authority and the Scott County Regional Authority. For more information about the Grand Parade and the St. Patrick Society, visit - Jeff Ignatius

Music Festival
1. IH Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
2. Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival
3. River Roots Live

Outdoor Festival
1. Bix Street Fest
2. Mississippi Valley Fair
3. Sturgis on the River

Place (Besides Home) to Watch a Movie
1. Showcase Cinemas 53
2. Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre
3. Great Escape Moline 14

Library for Programs and Events
1. Bettendorf Public Library
2. Moline Public Library
3. Davenport Public Library

Bettendorf Public Library
Library for Programs and Events

Just how many scheduled events take place at the Bettendorf Public Library? Let's put it this way: If, on average, you chose to attend two programs per day for a year, you'd still wind up missing out on a few more. Like a hundred more. With, as library director Steven Nielsen tells it, 824 events scheduled on the 2009 calendar, it's completely understandable that the Bettendorf venue was named "best library for programs and events" in the Reader's poll; the variety of options for youths, teens, and adults is nothing if not impressive. For the youngest of the young, the library offers such programs as "Tummy Time" - stories, songs, and rhymes for ages three and under - and "Preschool Storytime," which ages three to five can enjoy five times per week. ("That's a lot for a community of this size," says Youth Services Manager Tami Finley.) For older children and teens, Bettendorf's library showcases animated action in the weekly Anime Club, provides all manner of game-playing with the Role-Playing Group, Wii Free Play, and Gamer's Afternoon programs, and allows kids to help choose library programming - "because we want to hear their ideas," says Finley - in monthly Teen Advisory Board meetings. And adults are treated to almost no end of entertaining and educational options at Bettendorf's library, with book clubs led by Hedy Hustedde, film screenings, brown-bag-lunch concerts, discussions and field trips for senior citizens, and a bevy of special-event programs. Recently, says Adult Services Manager Maria Levetzow, the most successful of these has been the library's "Global Gathering" program, which gives library patrons an in-depth understanding of another culture through guest speakers, book discussions, films, and even the occasional cooking class. (The subject of this year's current program is Germany.) While predicting what patrons will respond to can be "hit-and-miss sometimes," Levetzow says that the Global Gathering series has proved enormously popular, and its success especially satisfying considering the amount of work involved. "Basically, it's a year's worth of effort on a two-month event." As Reader voters will doubtless agree, the time devoted to it - as with the time devoted to all of the library's programs - is time well spent. For a full calendar of Bettendorf Public Library events, visit - Mike Schulz

Venue for Video-Gaming
1. Gameology
2. Game Stop
3. Video Games Etc.

Night Life
Place for Drinks
1. Blue Cat Brew Pub
2. 11th Street Precinct
3. Club Boulevard

1. Jumer's Casino & Hotel
2. Isle of Capri Casino
3. Rhythm City Casino

Local Brewery
1. Blue Cat Brew Pub
2. Bent River Brewing Company
3. Front Street Brewery

Local Beer
1. Mississippi Blonde (Bent River)
2. Uncommon Stout (Bent River)
3. Off the Rail Pale Ale (Blue Cat)

Bar Atmosphere
1. Blue Cat Brew Pub
2. 11th Street Precinct
3. Bent River Brewing Company

Place to Meet People That Isn't a Bar
1. Restaurants
2. Churches
3. Casinos
3. Coffee shops

Ladies' Night
1. Nan's Piano Bar
2. Shenanigan's Irish Pub
3. 11th Street Precinct
3. Graze

Teen Hangout
1. Mall
2. Skate parks
3. Theo's Java Club

Gay Bar
1. Club Fusion
2. Mary's on 2nd
3. Connections

Comedy Venue
1. ComedySportz
2. Penguin's Comedy Club
3. Edje Nightclub

Place for an Inexpensive Date That Doesn't Look Like It
1. ComedySportz
2. River Bandits game
3. Biaggi's
3. Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre
3. Penguin's Comedy Club

Shopping & Services
Flower Shop
1. Hy-Vee
2. K'nees Florists
3. Flowerama

Jewelry Store
1. Necker's Jewelers
2. Diamonds on the Avenue
3. Kay Jewelers

Locally Owned Store with Things You Can't Find at Chains
1. Isabel Bloom
2. Mama Compton's
3. Artswork
3. K&K Hardware
3. Ritzi Reruns

Place to Buy Local Art
1. Bucktown Center for the Arts
2. Quad City Arts Gallery
3. Figge Art Museum Store

Shopping Center/Mall
1. NorthPark Mall
2. SouthPark Mall
3. Villiage Shopping Center

Clothing Store
1. Kohl's
2. Von Maur
3. Old Navy

Furniture Store
1. American Electronics, Appliances, & Furniture
2. Ashley Home Furnishings
2. Furniture Row

Antiques Store
1. Riverbend Antiques
2. Banowetz Antiques
3. Fred & Ethel's Retro Antiques

Home-Theatre Retailer
1. Best Buy
2. American Electronics, Appliances, & Furniture
3. Reference Audio Video

Store to Find Bargains
1. Goodwill stores
2. Gordmans
3. Walmart

Shoe Store
1. Payless ShoeSource
2. Von Maur
3. Famous Footwear

Cell-Phone Provider
1. Verizon Wireless
2. U.S. Cellular
3. Sprint

Day Spa
1. John Taylor Salon & Day Spa
2. William Wesley Salon & Day Spa
3. Five Star Salon Spa

John Taylor Salon & Day Spa
Day Spa

Lynn SurrThe research Lynn Surr undertook in preparing to open John Taylor Salon & Day Spa sounds positively torturous. She identified a need for a day spa in the Quad Cities, determined that she was going to open one, and then spent a year learning about the industry. That involved asking a lot of questions of other spas, learning about the financial side of the business, and lots of reading. But it also involved getting pampered at spas. ("That was the tough part," she joked.) All of that was, in part, because there was a process to introduce a day spa to a new market - which John Taylor did when it opened in 2000. "We had to educate both staff and the public," she said. For example, many people didn't (or don't) know what an esthetician (skin-care specialist) does. That education appears to have paid off, as River Cities' Reader voters named John Taylor Salon & Day Spa (at 4102 Blackhawk Road in Rock Island) the best at what it does in the Quad Cities. One key, Surr said, is a well-trained, professional staff that knows how indulge customers and make them feel comfortable. While other day spas have since joined John Taylor's ranks, Surr said she emphasizes training and a "culture": "When we're with a client, it's all about them." Last year, John Taylor - named for Surr's son - had 9,000 visits for services. She said that John Taylor will soon be unveiling its new Web site, through which customers can book appointments, buy products, and sign up for text messages about specials. Until then, you can still visit to see the salon's services and products. - Jeff Ignatius

Place to Find Unusual Gifts for Children
1. Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre gift store
2. Family Museum gift shop
2. Watermark Corners

Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre Gift Store
Place to Find Unusual Gifts for Children

I recently stopped into the Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre's gift shop to get a better understanding of why Reader voters named it the "best place to find unusual gifts for children," and left both relieved and depressed that I was no longer a child myself. Relived because, based on the incredible selection of fun, educational, and just-plain-weird items available for purchase, I likely would've spent my entire allowance there each and every week. And depressed because ... well, because I wasn't able to spend my entire allowance there each and every week. I mean, come on! Tornado Tubes and Magic Volcanoes that simulate natural phenomena in plastic casings! Kits that allow you to excavate dinosaur skulls! A make-your-own-quicksand pit, for heaven's sake! "We have a lot of interesting items," understates Sue Folwell, the store's manager for the past two years. "And they appeal to young and old alike. I had a lady come in and buy 20 mood rings for her birthday party - she was turning 40, and wanted to give everybody a mood ring." One can only imagine the color of that hostess' accessory, but for kids of any age, it's unimaginable that a visit to the Putnam's gift shop would turn their mood-ring hues anything but dark blue. (That's the "deeply happy" color.) From the store's many science-experiment kits to the magnetic rocks to the miniature creatures encased in "lizard slime," the Putnam always keeps a wide selection of intriguing items in stock, and while Folwell suggests that most make for "great stocking-stuffer ideas," not all of them are necessarily ideal for stuffing. "Hold your hand out," she says to me before I leave, placing a delicate object - a glass beaker shaped like a silly straw - in my palm. "Cup it around the base gently." I do, and the tiny pool of liquid at the tube's bottom, reacting to the heat of my palm, twists and races through the beaker. "That's a hand boiler," says Folwell. "The kids love those." Of course they do. Like the Putnam gift shop itself, it's hot. - Mike Schulz

Grocery Store
1. Schnucks (858 Middle Road, Bettendorf)
2. Hy-Vee (750 42nd Avenue Drive, Moline)
3. Hy-Vee (2900 Devils Glen Road, Bettendorf)

Retail Selection of Wine and Beer
1. Hy-Vee (750 42nd Avenue Drive, Moline)
2. Hy-Vee (2930 18th Avenue, Rock Island)
3. Hy-Vee, Northgate (1823 East Kimberly Road, Davenport)

Fitness-Equipment/Sporting-Goods Store
1. Dick's Sporting Goods
2. Dunham's Sports
3. 2nd Wind Exercise Equipment
3. Gander Mountain
3. Temples Sporting Goods

Earth-Friendly-Products Store
1. Greatest Grains
2. Heritage Natural Foods
3. Hy-Vee

Farmers' Market
1. Freight House Farmers' Market
2. Davenport Farmers' Market (NorthPark Mall)
3. Trinity Seventh Street Farmers' Market

Car Dealer
1. Lujack's Northpark Auto Plaza
2. Eriksen Chevrolet-Buick
3. Dahl Ford

Lujack's Northpark Auto Plaza
Car Dealer

Tom Pospisil, the platform president for Lujack's Northpark Auto Plaza, likens his "store" to a trip to the grocery - for anything you want, there are options from inexpensive to extravagant. "We have vehicles that go across the spectrum," he said. Lujack's sells 14 brands of new vehicles - from Kia to Porsche - and at any given time has an inventory of 1,000 new cars and 800 used ones. "It's very unusual," he said of the variety. "Manufacturers don't especially like that arrangement. ... If we were starting at this today, I don't think we could do it." Lujack's, which has been selling cars in the Quad Cities for more than five decades, was named the best car dealer by our readers in this year's poll. Although Lujack's was sold in April 2007 to the Gurley Leep Automotive Family, Popisil said Lujack's has maintained former chair Pete Pohlmann's "legacy of giving to the community. ... Nothing has changed." Lujack's sold 500 vehicles through the federal government's Cash for Clunkers program, and customers knew the dealership had stocked up, Popisil said: "We had people coming in from two, three states away." He added that Lujack's aims to sell 10,000 new vehicles in a year, but "we haven't quite gotten there." - Jeff Ignatius

Garden-Supply Store
1. Wallace's Garden Center
2. Teske Pet & Garden Center
3. The Green Thumbers

Home-Improvement Store
1. Lowe's
2. Menards
3. Home Depot

Place for a Wedding Reception
1. Quad City Botanical Center
2. Tanglewood Hills Pavilion
3. Jumer's Casino & Hotel Event Center

Auto Service
1. Emeis Automotive
2. Hughes Tire & Brake
3. Rick & Ken's Automotive

1. Bob Vogelbaugh (Mr. Thanksgiving)
2. Terry Lunardi
3. John Kessler (Kids Against Hunger, Habitat for Humanity)
3. Lucas Knox

Bob Vogelbaugh, "Mr. Thanksgiving"

When I arranged to speak with Bob Vogelbaugh about his placement in the Best of the Quad Cities poll, he asked that I give him a call the next day at 8 a.m. An early hour, but as he told me the following morning, "I'm up at 4 o'clock [a.m.] every day," even though "it isn't like I'm super-duper-dandy-peachy-keen right out of bed. But that's when I have the most energy." Of course, anyone who uses the phrase "super-duper-dandy-peachy-keen" probably has energy to spare. And it didn't take long to get a sense of why Vogelbaugh was named "best volunteer" in our Reader survey; in addition to providing an incredibly valuable and benevolent public service, the man's satisfaction and joy in his role as SouthPark Mall's "Mr. Thanksgiving" is utterly infectious. Beginning as an intimate gathering in 1970, when Vogelbaugh arranged Thanksgiving dinner for acquaintances spending the holiday alone, the Moline resident's initiative has grown to staggering proportions. Last year, nearly 2,500 people flooded SouthPark's food court for this free, annual dinner of turkey and all the trimmings, which Vogelbaugh organizes through community donations, out-of-pocket funds, and the gracious aid of some 400 other volunteers. "It's amazing," says Vogelbaugh, "because it's not just the inner Quad Cities, but the outer Quad City communities that have supported this." Much of the event's success, he adds, is due to the efforts of students at Moline High School's Coolidge Center ("Those kids are absolutely wonderful"), and to longtime assistant Vicki Baker, "who's been with me 38 years of the 39 years, and I can never give her enough praise and glory." But as the man's well-fed guests, and Reader voters, will attest, the majority of thanks belongs to "Mr. Thanksgiving" himself, who admits to "freaking a bit" at the thought of 2009's turnout surpassing 2008's attendance. "Last year, it was standing-room only," he recalls. "People had to stand and eat at the counters all around the food court. You know those machines where you can get your picture taken? One guy ate in there. They had a seat." - Mike Schulz

1. Jon Horvath (RIBCO)
2. Teresa Bailey (Club Boulevard)
3. Bob Murdock (Blue Cat)

1. Tonya Todd (My Sister's Coffeehouse)
2. Laura (East Kimberly Starbucks)
3. Emily Martin (Barnes & Noble Cafe)

Local Visual Artist
1. Heidi Hernandez
1. Leo Kelly
3. Chad Dyer

Local Actor/Actress
1. Eddie Staver III
2. Tristan Layne Tapscott
3. Ben Hopkins
3. Jeff De Leon
3. Tom Walljasper

Eddie Staver III
Local Actor/Actress

Asked if he was surprised to be named "best local actor" in the Reader's Best of the Quad Cities poll, Eddie Staver III says, "Yeah, I was. I was really surprised. It's a pretty cool thing to be recognized for with all the talent that's here, you know?" And given this exemplary performer's Quad Cities endeavors over the past year, the man certainly knows from talent. Since last fall, Staver's local credits have included roles in the Circa '21's The Full Monty, the two-person Danny & the Deep Blue Sea for the Curtainbox Theatre Company, Sam Shepard's True West and a new Oedipus Rex for the Harrison Hilltop Theatre, New Ground Theatre's premiere of Dream a Little Dream of Me, Genesius Guild's take on Euripides' Hecuba, director Lora Adams' Village Theatre presentation of The Boys Next Door, and, most recently, the Curtainbox's fantastically enjoyable production of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. I mention this last bit as someone who managed to catch Glengarry not once, not twice, but four times during its run, and could barely believe that Staver's already-sensational portrayal of real-estate huckster Dave Moss could grow more powerful, desperate, and profanely hysterical with each new viewing. "I've always kind of preferred those one-on-one shows," says Staver of past stage experiences, "but then you get put in a cast with a great ensemble, like with Glengarry, and there's nothing better than that - than everyone working hard and everyone giving their all." As a member of the Curtainbox's ensemble company, Staver will no doubt have further opportunities to share his talents in both one-on-one and ensemble formats, and will also be seen in New Ground Theatre's October production of Adam Bock's Swimming in the Shallows. But after so many acting successes, does Staver now feel compelled to follow the career cliché, and extend his performance experience to the field of directing? "You know what? I don't. At all," he says with a laugh. "I took one directing class in college, and it was a mess. Maybe further down the road I'll try it, but I'm just not ready to take something like that on yet." It's doubtful that Staver's audiences will be disappointed. - Mike Schulz

Local Comedian
1. Jeff De Leon
2. Jeff Adamson
3. John Hannon

Jeff De Leon
Local Comedian

"I was pretty stunned," says Jeff De Leon on being voted "best local comedian" in the Reader's poll. "It's weird to say, but I don't consider myself a comedian. Not like the people who have the ability to do stand-up. I have the utmost respect for people that can do it, but I don't think it's something I could do." For nearly 15 years, though, local audiences have had the pleasure of laughing with De Leon during his frequent performances with ComedySportz - the improvisational troupe that he joined in 1995, and for which he's served as artistic director since 2005. (ComedySportz itself was named "best comedy venue" and "best place for an inexpensive date that doesn't look like it" by Reader voters.) A fan of Ricky Gervais, HBO's Flight of the Conchords, and the Christopher Guest mockumentaries, De Leon says his truest inspirations are the fellow improv artists he shares the stage with on an almost weekly basis. "I'm there a lot," he says with a laugh, "and I learn something new every time I do it. There's something really incredible about getting on stage with absolutely nothing, and getting a one-word suggestion from an audience, and then four minutes later, having them all standing on their feet applauding." De Leon is certainly no stranger to applause outside of the ComedySportz walls; among his many local stage credits, he acted in and co-directed August's Hate Mail for the Riverbend Theatre Collective, and has delivered a number of outstanding portrayals for the area classical-theatre troupe the Prenzie Players. (In addition to his "best local comedian" citation, he was one of this year's runners-up for "best local actor," and says that he's found his improv training to have aided his acting "bi-i-i-ig time. It gives you the ability to look at things in a different way - to really play with a script and make new discoveries.") He finds ComedySportz, though, an especially satisfying experience. "What made me the most happy," says De Leon of the Reader's "best local comedian" results, "was that all three people who placed were ComedySportz players. Being up there with so many talented individuals ... . Seriously, it's just the greatest job you could possibly have." - Mike Schulz

Local Business Owner
1. Jeff Adamson (ComedySportz)
2. Richard Fishman (RAF Properties)
3. Sherry Hopkins (Ritzi Reruns)

Local Race-Car Driver
1. Jimmy Watson Jr.
2. Justin Dierckx
2. Ray Guss
2. Scott Lindle

Local Radio Personality
1. Leuck & Howe (WLLR)
2. Dwyer & Michaels (97X)
3. Dave & Darren (Rock 104-9)

Local Tattoo Artist
1. Ron O'Tool (O'Tool Design)
2. Alex Pompa
2. Dan Bonowski (YNOT Ink)

Local Mixed-Martial-Arts Fighter
1. Pat Miletich
2. Brad Smith
3. Matt Hughes

Local Hero
1. Chad Pregracke
2. Bob Juarez
3. John Kiley
3. Terry Lunardi

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