JDC offering different 4th of July fireworks

Media day features 2023 Champ Straka

Defending John Deere Classic champ Sepp Straka (left) is all smiles while chatting on various subjects with JDC media director Barry Cronin during Monday's Media Day kickoff breakfast for the local PGA Tour stop at Bally's Quad Cities Casino & Hotel in Rock Island. The JDC is July 1-7 this summer. Straka will return to defend his title after also helping win the Ryder Cup for Europe last fall. PHOTO CREDIT STEVE TAPPA

Caitlin Clark. Blake Shelton. Darius Rucker. While last summer’s star-studded John Deere Classic was a tough act to follow, the local PGA Tour stop again is offering plenty of extra bang for this year’s bucks spent on tickets and sponsorships.

Grammy Award-winning country music star Lainey Wilson and iconic alternative rockers Counting Crows are the featured performers in this year’s “Concerts on the Course” series, which follows tournament play the final two rounds of the July 1-7 event.

Ms. Clark’s replacement for the 2024 JDC Kid’s Day and Pro-Am festivities is another Iowa born-and-bred basketball star in NBA standout Keegan Murray.

However, an actual fireworks display might be the only highlight missing at the Moline-based Deere & Co.-sponsored event. JDC officials debated for over a year on how to best bring together the golf tournament’s first round with Independence Day on Thursday, July 4.

“We just really can’t have fans on the course after dark,” JDC Tournament Director Andrew Lehman explained Monday, May 20, during the annual Media Day kickoff festivities at Bally’s Quad Cities Casino & Hotel in Rock Island.

“It’s just not safe – too many bad things can happen — and we all saw Friday what can happen at Valhalla (Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, at the PGA Championship).That’s the last thing anybody wants is a spectator getting hurt or killed in an accident when it’s dark and raining like it was there.”

A vendor working at Valhalla was struck and killed by a bus early Friday, May 17, while trying to cross a four-lane road in the rain and darkness.

During holiday considerations, Mr. Lehman said the event staff and board of directors also looked hard at local traditions, with most area cities already hosting their own fireworks displays and community celebrations.

“It’s a family day here, so it’s a tricky day for us,” Mr. Lehman said.

“There’s also only so many fireworks providers in our area, including one company who does basically 90% of the shows around here. So, we didn’t want to step on anybody’s toes. We just hope people can come out and spend a few hours with us on the golf course on the holiday before heading home to their family and their celebrations,” he added.

To help mark the nation’s birthday at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, the JDC is honoring veterans and active-duty military.

The tournament already offers free tickets to each day of the event to service members with military appreciation program information available here.

New this year on the holiday, though, the Crystal Group is hosting military members for food and beverage in an air-conditioned chalet on the 18th hole. The JDC is recruiting other sponsors to host the military at the tournament. 

“It’s just like the Quad Cities to have corporate sponsors step up to provide those venues and thank our military for their service,” said Mr. Lehman, who is in his second year leading the event that raised a record $14.1 million for local charities last summer with the Birdies for Charity program.

“We’re also doing some things to take care of our first responders on that Thursday (July 4). We’ve partnered with an organization called Folds of Honor. They’re a national organization whose main mission is to support families of fallen soldiers through scholarships for kids. So, we’re going to incorporate them,” he said.

“We’re also working on a flyover and some different things. But our goal is to sell sponsorships to match their (Folds of Honor) 13 scholarships. We’d love to be able to do 13 scholarships in Iowa and 13 more in Illinois.”

Mr. Lehman said the JDC also is continuing to offer a fireworks celebration for the visiting pro golfers and their families on Wednesday, July 3, with a player party at downtown Davenport’s Up Skybar for Red, White & Boom over the Mississippi River. 

“We started that last year, and it was a big hit,” Mr. Lehman reported.

Ironically, golf equated to an opening act last summer, even though the prize purse was $7.4 million.

Future Ryder Cup Champ Sepp Straka flirted with the rarity of a final-round score of 59 en route to winning the JDC title. Mr. Straka is back to defend his JDC championship and was the featured guest Monday at Media Day. The event featured a question-and-answer for the crowd with Mr. Sepp, moderated by Barry Cronin, the JDC’s media director.  

“We had the best field I think we’ve ever had here last year, but nobody talked about it,” Mr. Lehman said with the 2023 JDC’s economic impact exceeding an estimated $70 million locally last July.

“We had nine players ranked in the Top 50 in the world last year – but we’re already running ahead of that this year, with 11 Top 50 players including our defending champ ranked No. 21. So, we’re super excited and we think we’re having great conversations with a few more great players, and we think we can continue to add to that. So, maybe the golf will provide the biggest fireworks this year.”

For ticket information, visit: https://johndeereclassic.com/spectators/ticket-options.

For hospitality options, visit: https://johndeereclassic.com/sponsorship/hospitality-packages.

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