A tradition that began with a two-day event held in a single room returns this weekend to the Quad Cities taking over not only the streets of downtown Davenport but the entire RiverCenter complex.
Festival of Trees, the annual Quad City Arts fundraiser, kicks off with the free parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, in downtown. The helium balloon parade will air live on KWQC-TV6 and be livestreamed on KWQC’s website.
For thousands of Quad Citians and visitors alike, the event is the unofficial launch of the holiday season. For Quad City Arts, the Festival of Trees raises funding to support the nonprofit arts organization’s ongoing efforts to grow, showcase and celebrate the arts across the region.
After months of preparation and planning, and countless hours of set up, the 70,000-square-foot RiverCenter will be transformed into a winter wonderland that draws hundreds of sponsors, designers, volunteers, entertainers and tens of thousands of supporters to celebrate the season.
This year’s Grand Patron Sponsors are: Kwik Star, KWQC and the Quad-City Times. Patron Sponsors are: Arconic, Carpenters Training Center of the Quad Cities, City of Bettendorf, City of Davenport, IHMVCU, IMEG, Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial, RiverCenter and SSAB.
Along with the giant balloons, Saturday also marks the opening day for Festival of Trees, which will run from Saturday, Nov. 18, to Sunday, Nov. 26 (closed Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23). Regular daily hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. except for Nov. 26, Closing Day, which is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 2-10, and free for children under 2. To help the festival go cashless, tickets may be purchased ahead online.
The Quad City Arts’ Festival of Trees traces its roots to a dedicated group of volunteers who in 1986 believed in the impact of the arts. Led by former Quad Citizen Diane Sulg, the group’s purpose the first year was to create a community celebration of the holiday season during what was a time of economic recession for the Quad Cities. Secondly, the event set out to raise funds for the Visiting Artist Series.
According to Quad City Arts, that powerhouse group of women set out on a mission to support bringing high-quality artists to the Quad Cities, inspiring a generation of students and families through access to the arts. In the first year, the tireless volunteers garnered support from more than 100 local businesses, and the rest is history.
Today, Festival of Trees features more than 100 designer trees, designer displays, 14 special events including the Midwest’s largest helium balloon parade. The annual celebration draws strength from a corps of 3,500 volunteers and more than 100,000 visitors. All dollars raised help Quad City Arts provide local arts and cultural programming to more than 400,000 residents and students across the region.
Now in its 38th year, the event generates a $2.5 million economic impact on the Quad Cities, according to Quad City Arts website. Founded in 1986, today it is recognized as one of the top events of its kind and pumps more than $8 million into supporting the arts.
And all those dollars multiply across the region, a new economic impact survey focused on the arts shows. Quad City Arts recently released the findings from its Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6), an economic and social impact study conducted by Americans for the Arts. The study determined that the nonprofits arts and culture industry in the Quad Cities generated $29,030,438 in economic activity in 2022.
“At Quad City Arts, we see firsthand the social impact of the arts on our community and on individuals, and we know that the arts have a significant impact on our local economy,” Kevin Maynard, Quad City Arts executive director, said in a blog last month announcing the AEP6 data. “With this study, we can put numbers to that impact.”
Key statistics from the Quad Cities AEP6 include:
- Quad Cities nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $12,776,901 in event-related spending by its audiences.
- The typical attendee spends $27.18 per event not including the cost of admission.
- 19.7% of arts and culture attendees were from outside the region, spending an average of $42.71 – all vital income for local merchants.