Best of the Quad Cities 2004: Arts, Culture, and Leisure Print
News/Features - Feature Stories
Written by No Author   
Tuesday, 22 February 2005 18:00
Local theatre organization 1. Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse 2. Quad-City Music Guild 3. ComedySportz Best Local Theatre Organization />Since its conversion from a movie theatre in 1977, Circa ’21 has provided “one-stop entertainment” with the area’s only dinner theatre. For a single ticket, visitors come to enjoy a first-rate dinner and live theatre. Chef Alex Plata (formerly of Jumer’s hotel) prepares the meal buffet, while professional actors, directors, and designers, many of them from New York, put on Broadway-quality shows such as the now-running Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The owners, Brett and Denny Hitchcock, have seen Circa ’21 grow into a destination not only for local theatre lovers, but also for groups from all over the Midwest. “We try to bring people to the whole Quad Cities,” said Brett, “not just Circa ’21.” Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will be running until April 2. The next show, The King & I, will run April 8 through June 4. For more information or tickets, call (309)786-7733 or visit ( The theatre is located at 1828 Third Avenue in Rock Island. – Greg Ball

Local filmmaker
1. Blue Box Limited
2. Kara Toal
3. Max Allan Collins

Best Local Filmmaker
Bryan Woods and Scott Beck are too young to be this good. By the age of 20 and under their own Bluebox Limited banner, these guys had written, directed, and produced four feature films together, two of which (University Heights and Her Summer) came out in 2004. Both are available on DVD from the Bluebox Web site ( The fifth feature – Coast – is presently in the script stage. The pair has been working together on movies since 2000, and filmmaking grew out of storytelling. “Making movies was the culmination of our writing,” Woods told the Reader last year. “The stories we’ve always been writing or telling are visual stories.” The duo has been learning the film business on its own, using small budgets (several hundred dollars tops) but a professional approach. They were among the 50 finalists for one of HBO’s Project Greenlight directing competitions. Still, it’s important to remember that these young men are still in college. Woods attends Scott Community College, while Beck goes to the University of Iowa. “I think we’re doing really good for student filmmakers,” Woods said.

Local blues band
1. Ellis Kell Band
2. John Resch & The Detroit Blues
3. Cobalt Blue
3. Shane Johnson’s Blue Train

Local country band
1. Dani Lynn Howe Band
2. Truesdells
2. Jim the Mule

Local jazz band
1. Josh Duffee & His Orchestra
2. Manny Lopez Trio
3. Terry Hanson Ensemble

Local rock band
1. Jim the Mule
2. Wicked Liz & The Bellyswirls
3. Metrolites

Best Local Rock Band
There’s something beautiful and memorable about the classic rock-song structure, and Jim the Mule isn’t ashamed of being one of the area’s best practitioners. “I always like to call it rock and roll,” said leader Tom Swanson of his five-year-old band’s sound. Blending the Southern feel of the Allman Brothers Band with the toughness of the Rolling Stones, the band is able to appeal to a broad audience. “We play a lot of old stuff,” Swanson said, from the Kinks to Neil Young to the Faces. “We don’t turn off anyone under 30 automatically.” Jim the Mule features guitarist Swanson, bassist Jason Gilliland, guitarist Dan Videtich, percussionist Ryan Koning, and drummer Steve Merritt. (All the members also sing, with Swanson handling most lead duties.) You’ll have an opportunity to hear the band this Thursday at 5 p.m. at Mojo’s and this Friday at RIBCO’s tsunami benefit show, and after that the Mule will be heading to Rock Island’s Brass Sail studios to record a new album. The group’s live To a Sunday came out in October 2003, but the new CD will be its first opportunity to showcase its five-piece lineup. “We tightened up the sound,” Swanson said. The album will feature 10 or 11 cuts – all originals – and Jim the Mule is using two Black Crowes albums as models for the sound it’s looking for. As for the songs themselves, they’re nearly finished. “We go a lot by feel,” Swanson said. “If it feels good and we enjoy playing it, we know it’s going to have a connection with the audience.” Swanson also said the group will try to stay close to its live-band roots by tracking most of the CD live: “We don’t want it too canned or dry.” For more information about the band, visit (

Local metal/alternative band
1. Katalina
1. Spatterdash
3. Wicked Liz & The Bellyswirls

Local folk/acoustic performers
1. Acoustic Timbre
1. Catseye
1. Mike Wallace

Annual family event/festival
1. Bix Jazz festival weekend
2. Taste of the Quad Cities
3. Mississippi Valley Fair

Place to view or buy art
1. Quad City Arts
2. Beaux Arts Fair
3. MidCoast Fine Arts

1. Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre
2. Family Museum of Arts & Science
3. River Music Experience

2004 concert
1. Metallica
2. Bette Midler
3. Tim McGraw

Place to dance
1. Kai’s
2. Rock Island Brewing Co.
3. Chaps Dancehall & Saloon

Place to watch sporting events
1. 3rd & 22 Sports Bar
2. Sports Fans Pizza
3. Rookies Sports Bar

Best Place to Watch Sporting Events
The smoke-free, family-oriented 3rd & 22, located in a redeveloped synagogue at 2130 Third Avenue in Rock Island, opened for business on July 27, 2004. The bar has several sports themes on its two levels and is home to the Quad Cities Sports Hall of Fame, originally part of the Quad-City Times. While 3rd & 22 is a sports bar with dozens of televisions, it also features a full menu, including popular items such as burgers, tenderloins, and pizza. Daily lunch specials are also offered, mostly less than $5. Most importantly for sports fans, 3rd & 22 offers a variety of satellite-television packages, including for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, NASCAR, the NBA, and Major League Baseball. And beginning on February 20, 3rd & 22 also began participating in fantasy NASCAR, awarding points for correctly guessing auto-race results. The grand prize is two tickets to Daytona, and weekly prizes will also be awarded, along with the opportunity to win in-house gift certificates. For more information on 3rd & 22, call (309)283-0822. – John B. Perreault

Happy hour
1. Old Chicago
2. Rookies Sports Bar
3. Hooters of Davenport

Gay & lesbian hangout
1. Club Fusion
2. Marys on 2nd
3. 811 Lockdown

Local landmark or historic structure
1. Rock Island Arsenal
2. Black Hawk State Park & Museum
3. Centennial Bridge

Local getaway
1. Geneseo
2. LeClaire
3. Loud Thunder Forest Preserve

Best Local Getaway
The town of Geneseo was founded in 1836 and maintains active ties to its historical heritage. The Victorian Walk, its largest annual event, re-creates the feel of a 19th Century Christmas, with horse-drawn carriages, musical performances, and many living window scenes. The event is held a little before Christmas, allowing visitors to get some shopping done in the many unique stores of the shopping district. The Victorian Walk can draw up to 14,000 attendees, and recently got national exposure when it was featured on During the summer, the Music & Craft Festival draws about as many people, with live music, a parade, and more than 150 vendors of crafts and fine art. For those with dramatic inclinations, the Richmond Hill Players perform a full season of comedy and drama at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre. The Geneseo Historical Museum offers an ongoing opportunity to learn about regional history, with exhibits changing monthly. If you feel like taking a little bike ride, you can hop on the Grand Illinois Trail in Geneseo, and keep biking all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Or you could just take it easy and camp out at Prairie Park near the historical Hennepin Canal. For more information on Geneseo, check out ( – Lars Rehnberg (Photo courtesy Geneseo Chamber of Commerce.)

Weekend getaway
1. Chicago
2. Galena
3. Dubuque
3. Iowa City

Park or playground
1. Vander Veer Park
2. McManus/Rocket Park
3. Scott County Park

Place to play golf
1. Emeis Golf Course
2. Duck Creek Golf Course
3. Saukie Golf Course
3. TPC at Deere Run Golf Course

Open-mic night
1. Mojo’s at River Music Experience
2. Rock Island Brewing Co.
3. Bent River Brewing Co.

Best Open-Mic Night
With its smoke-free environment and all-ages format, the open-mic night at Mojo’s (in the River Music Experience, 131 West Second Street in Davenport) was tops in our Best of the Quad Cities poll. When it opened in June, the coffee house offered two open-mic sessions – one for adults and one for younger people, said Ellis Kell, the River Music Experience’s music, programming, and operations manager. Combining those into a single event, from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, has improved the variety and quality, Kell said, allowing younger musicians to mix with their elders. Some younger performers have even become regulars. “We have one strong one [event] instead of two weak ones,” he noted. A typical evening will have four to six performers and an audience of between 15 and 20. Another plus for Mojo’s is that it has a piano and microphones already set up, and musicians are also available for people who need some backup. “We have everything ready to go,” Kell said. He added that Mojo’s is considering extending the night a half-hour.

Public pool or water park
1. Wacky Waters
2. Whitewater Junction
3. Splash Landing

Local sports team
1. Quad City Mallards
2. Swing of the Quad Cities
3. Qaud Cities Steamwheelers

Place to take kids on rainy day
1. Family Museum of Arts & Science
2. Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre
3. Showcase Cinemas

Best Place to Take Kids on a Rainy Day
The Family Museum of Arts & Science, at 2900 Learning Campus Drive in Bettendorf, is the winner in one category this year – the best place to take kids on a rainy day – as well as the runner-up in the best-museum competition. It’s easy to see why it won; it offers so much to do for any age. Families can create, learn, and have fun together. Classes are available for kids through adults in the areas of dance, music, art, and experimental learning. The Family Museum always features something new and exciting, with traveling exhibits and special events. The current exhibit is Dragons & Fairies: Exploring Viet Nam Through Folktales, which followed the bodily-function-themed Grossology. You could easily spend the entire day exploring the different areas and enjoying the outdoor playground. Families can become members for $85, which includes unlimited access to the museum, discounts on classes, and 10-percent discounts on items bought at the museum store. To become a member, call (563)344-4106. For more information about the Family Museum, visit its Web site at (, and look for upcoming exhibits and events in the Reader calendar’s “kids” and “museums” sections. – Cheryl Phoun

Neighborhood pub
1. Mac’s Tavern
2. Pat McGuire’s Irish American Grill
3. Bleyarts Tap
3. Rookies Sports Bar

Place to meet someone new
1. Borders Books Music & Café
2. Copia Martini Bar
3. District of Rock Island
3. Rock Island Brewing Co.
blog comments powered by Disqus