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Each November, magic happens in the Quad Cities. That’s when the Festival of Trees arrives in Davenport. The Christmas trees, parade, gingerbread houses, holiday performances, the Festival Express, and more enchant about 100,000 visitors a year while raising money for Quad City Arts’ arts programs. Since 2001, IMEG has volunteered its time, talent, and treasure as the designers and operators of the Festival Express holiday trains that chug their way through a German Christmas village as kid (and adult) conductors look on. Success is measured by the excited children who line up to run the trains around the track and toot the trains’ whistles. And by the adult fans, like the long-married couple now living in separate senior living complexes, who arrange to visit the Festival at the same time so they can sit together for hours, holding hands and watching the trains go by. "We aren't doing it for the glory,” says IMEG President and CEO Paul VanDuyne. “It's really for the joy that it brings to people.” Onlookers and new volunteers are often surprised by the amount of work that goes into Festival Express. “It is a ton of work,” says Erin Duffy, an IMEG business analyst who sits on the Festival of Trees Steering Committee and has been involved since the early days. Track design and planning begins in the summer, she says, but the bulk of the work is done in the 10 days leading up to Festival’s opening and during the festival itself. “We build it, put it together, wire, decorate, all in those 10 days. It’s 100 percent volunteer driven,” Ms. Duffy says. Each year at the beginning of November, the Garden Scale (G Scale) train engines and cars, the track, buildings, and the rest of the display are loaded into a 24-foot box truck and taken to the RiverCenter, where IMEG volunteers unpack it and bring the scenes to life. About 40 IMEG employees helped set up and work Festival Express in 2022. They readied the platforms for the track, built the mountains, and tunnels, and assembled the display — a 575-square-foot village, which includes more than 1.5 scale miles set up in six loops (four on the base level, one raised over that and the small Santa village on the top tier), 30 LGB train cars and engines, 40 buildings and structures, 250 trees, and LED lighting for the display and the star field behind it. In addition, the display requires 2,500 feet of wiring, with the house/street lighting on a custom-built six-channel lighting dimmer. The controller interface the kid conductors use also is fully custom designed and built. Each piece of track is aligned to the next, connected, and painstakingly nailed into place. “Roads” — black tape — are pressed into place. The wiring for the lighting is strung under the risers and snaked up onto the display. The buildings and trees are hand placed and snow gently sprinkled on top to avoid getting dust or debris on the tracks. Debris can derail and damage a train – and each car or engine is valued at hundreds (in some cases thousands) of dollars. Once Festival of Trees is open, IMEG volunteers staff the train from opening to closing, helping more than a thousand children take control of two tracks, troubleshooting, and explaining the history of the trains, which are part of Mr. VanDuyne’s private collection. “The track changes a little bit each year,” Ms. Duffy says. “We used to do as elaborate a track as possible, through mountains, up and down. Adults enjoyed that, but a simpler track layout employed in the last four to five years allows the kids to more easily keep an eye on the train they are controlling.” Festival Express is one of Festival of Trees’ main attractions and draws in thousands of people each year. IMEG estimates the in-kind donation of Festival Express amounts to about $50,000 a year in support of Festival of Trees. In addition, IMEG requests a $1 donation to run a train for three minutes, and had more than 1,500 kids participate in 2022. (Molly Foley is IMEG’s chief marketing officer and a Festival Express Committee co-chair. She can be reached at email@example.com.)