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“The Beginning of Something”: RiverWay Showcase Aims to Bring New Workers to the Quad Cities PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Local News
Tuesday, 12 September 2006 22:57

Writers are often taught to "show, don't tell." People marketing the Quad Cities are doing exactly that.

Most marketing is done through "telling," such as television ads. "Showing" involves giving people an experience, such as free samples at the grocery store.

This weekend's RiverWay collection of events - running Thursday through Sunday - is all about "showing" the Quad Cities rather than "telling" about them.

RiverWay will supplement long-running area events with new attractions. In addition to the existing Riverssance, Brew Ha Ha, and Erin Feis festivals, RiverWay is adding steam-train excursions, a storytelling festival, a boat-bike-run "adventure race," a "ghost bridge" presentation being projected on the Mississippi River, a John Looney bus tour, boat cruises, and a "Living on the River" fair, among other things. The theme is the 150th anniversary of the first bridge built across the Mississippi, connecting Davenport and Rock Island.

A complete schedule of events is available (along with maps and the option to buy tickets) at the Quad-Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau (QCCVB) Web site: (http://www.visitquadcities.com). Tickets and information are also available at QCCVB offices in Davenport (102 South Harrison Street) and Moline (2021 River Drive), and at the Mississippi Valley Welcome Center in LeClaire.

RiverWay is an expansion of the idea behind 2004's Grand Excursion: tie together existing festivals, add themed events, and package it as a community showcase. But unlike Grand Excursion - which encompassed several communities on the Mississippi - RiverWay is limited to the greater Quad Cities area.

The new wrinkle for RiverWay is that it's not just a one-shot attempt to bring tourists to the area. River Action, which has taken a lead role with RiverWay, is specifically targeting 24- to 40-year-olds for the weekend. The concept: If people visit the Quad Cities and like what they see, they might consider living here.

To that end, RiverWay organizers sent out 50,000 invitations to people in that age group living in or near Springfield and Freeport, Illinois, and Mason City, Waterloo, and Ottumwa, Iowa. The direct-mail piece invites the recipient to visit (http://www.riveraction.org/riverwayinvitation) to sign up for a customized packet, including coupons, Riverssance passes, and housing information.

So far, 30 people have requested information packets.

A "Living on the River" fair on Saturday (from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the John Deere Pavilion in Moline) will offer information on living and working in the Quad Cities, including booths on jobs, real estate, River Action, and the Young Professionals Network organization.

"This is the beginning of something," said Kathy Wine, executive director of River Action.

The workforce-recruitment angle is particularly compelling because of its potential economic impact. If RiverWay, with its budget of roughly $190,000, can attract younger workers to the area, that in turn could bring new businesses to the area.

Early returns on the RiverWay event are strong. Two of the train excursions were sold out by Monday, Wine said, and the others are selling well. For the weekend, 1,800 train-excursion tickets were available. And the "Taming of the Slough" adventure race - featuring a one-mile canoe or kayak component, a six-mile bike, and a two-mile run - already has 40 teams registered.

"We thought that would fit the [24- to 40-year-old] demographic," said Dan McNeil, project manager and assistant to the executive director for River Action. The race is geared toward the recreational outdoors enthusiast, he added; one team from Wisconsin is planning on competing on Saturday morning and attending Brew Ha Ha in the afternoon. "This is how we make the Quad Cities a draw," he said.

Another goal of RiverWay is to drive people - tourists and residents alike - to venues in which the community has heavily invested. The storytelling festival will take place throughout the weekend at newer amenities such as the Figge Art Museum and the River Music Experience, along with LeClaire House, the Mississippi Visitors Center, the Family Museum of Arts & Science, the Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre, the Quad City Botanical Center, the Deere Wiman House, the District of Rock Island, the Arsenal Museum, the Colonel Davenport House, and Quad City Arts.

Wine said that the community has put millions of dollars into many of these facilities. "This is their chance to broaden their base," she said. "We want to make them all healthier."

Each night from 8 to 10 p.m., RiverWay will feature 20-minute audio-video presentations on the first bridge to cross the Mississippi on a 50-foot-by-150-foot water "screen" powered by a pair of diesel pumps. The best viewing for the presentations will be in LeClaire Park, Wine said.

Organizers plan to hold a RiverWay event every two years, perhaps with a different theme. The 2008 festival might be a celebration of the recreational aspects of the river. Wine said she also hopes the event can share a weekend with the River Roots Live festival that year.

 

For more information on RiverWay, including a full schedule of events, visit (http://www.visitquadcities.com). Tickets to all events, as well as hotel-room packages, are available on the site. Tickets can also be purchased by calling (800) 747-7800.

 

To register for the Taming of the Slough adventure race, visit (http://www.riveraction.org).


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