And here you have them, the TOP TEN stories of the year, 2019.

There were obviously a lot of big stories this year, but, these are the ten that we picked to have the biggest impact and resonance.

Why did we pick these stories?

A couple of them involved incredible achievements by local groups of people, achievements that are rarely accomplished by groups on the local level. Some of those involved achievements by groups of kids, which make them even more impressive, and also leave the possibility for even greater resonance later on down the line as those children grow and mature and work towards even greater goals. If or when any of these children make it to major college teams or professional teams, you can note that those achievements began here.

A few of the stories, too many, sadly, were of an unfortunate nature, dealing with potential closures or departures of long-standing organizations in the area, whose departure could, or will, have a major impact on the area. One of those is still up in the air, and hopefully goes in a positive direction. The other was more of an evolution, but still a diminishment and a loss to the area arts scene in general, especially given the family-friendly nature of its content. The other two are depressing losses to the area and will have an adverse impact that can’t be ignored.

One of the stories is an incredible success story of altruism and community service within a success story of a new sports and entertainment option in the area. Another features the return of one of the most nationally and internationally successful creative acts from the area. Yet another is a positive story of how the arts can impact and change a community tied into a tale of a new venue that brought in a lot of fantastic acts. And, the number one really couldn’t be denied, as there are few local creators who have achieved that level of success, let alone those who spent so much of their formative time in the area, still have ties to it, and have made an effort to keep those connections to the Quad-Cities.

And, without any further ado, here’s today’s part of the countdown . . . – Top 30 Stories Of 2019 (#10 – #1)10.) EMSSC Spartans U12 rated 8 in Illinois: There are over 230 U12 youth soccer teams in Illinois, and among all, one located in the Quad-Cities, the EMSSC Spartans, is ranked #8. The team finished the fall season with a 19-3-1 record, its only three losses coming to the teams ranked #1, #2 and #5 in the state, with that loss to #5 Peoria (last year’s #1-rated team) being a 4-3 nail-biter that saw EMSSC take the lead in the second half, 3-2, only to have Peoria tie and win in the last six minutes. The road to that tournament championship game included wins against three teams ranked in the top 15 and two in the top 10. In all, the majority of the Spartans’ wins came against teams ranked in the top 30 in Illinois and Iowa. The team includes Lawson Zulu, Connor Wehr, Baylor Smith, Elijah Nache, Xavier Marolf, Jackson Leary, Carter Holke, Junior Garibay, Gavin DeRudder, Elijah DeLaCruz, Jonas Cortez, Fred Callender, Easton Bohnstengel and Israel Bailey. Coaches are Anthony Nache, Sean Leary and Jason DeLaCruz. Team manager is Megan Nache. The Spartans ended the spring season ranked #15. They are the highest ranked team in the Quad-Cities now for the second season in a row. The future is looking bright! – Top 30 Stories Of 2019 (#10 – #1)9.) EMSSC Renegades U13 win USA Cup: Very few teams from the Quad-Cities area have ever competed in the USA Cup, let alone won a trophy there. The annual tournament in Blaine, Minn. features teams from around the world and is only open to the top-ranked squads from states across the country. Some of the top soccer players from around the globe meet up to compete, trade pins, hang out and talk soccer with each other, knowing full well that many of the athletes taking the pitch will be crossing the endlines in professional games before a decade passes. These are kids that take the sport seriously, work hard, practice, and dedicate their time and lives to the highest in competition. The East Moline Silvis Soccer Club U13 Renegades were one of those teams, ranked in the top 15 in Illinois, that made the trek up to Minnesota, and, given the competition, being there could’ve been reward enough. But not for the Renegades. Led by coach Alex Sandoval, the team went 5-0-1 to win its bracket and take the 2019 USA Cup. – Top 30 Stories Of 2019 (#10 – #1)8.) Quad City River Bandits could be dropped by MLB: As broken locally on, it was announced this past fall that a Major League Baseball proposal has been forwarded that would cut ties between 42 minor league teams and their major league partners. The Quad City River Bandits, a minor league affiliate of the Houston Astros, are on that list for contraction. If the River Bandits were dropped by MLB they could go the indie route, but it would mean a substantial hit to revenue and support from their major league club. If the Bandits were to close down, it would be a huge blow to the local sports and entertainment scene, not to mention downtown Davenport, which would find itself with a massive empty stadium on its hands. However, there’s still hope, as nothing has been decided. This story would be much higher up on the list, in the top two, if there were more certainty to it, and hopefully that certainty will be found in a positive way in 2020. The River Bandits will play their full 2020 schedule, as the MLB and Minor League Baseball’s Professional Baseball Agreement is set to expire after the 2020 season. Beyond that, it’s totally uncertain. Here’s hoping for a great call in the Bandits’ favor and more baseball in the future at Modern Woodmen Stadium. – Top 30 Stories Of 2019 (#10 – #1)7.) Quad City Storm raises over $160,000 for local charities in first season: The Quad City Storm electrified the coffers of local charities during the hockey team’s inaugural season, striking lightning with the power of generosity as they raised a whopping $162,754 for area charities. In July, the Quad City Storm were named Wanda Amos award winners; the award given by the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) for superior community service. With the award, the league granted the team $1,000 to donate to a non-profit organization of their choice. Storm president Gwen Tombergs said the following after the season: “Where do I begin? We did what some thought was impossible. We had more naysayers than supporters in the beginning. But we didn’t listen and true grit and determination took over. We assembled a team both on and off the ice that we knew could make this first season special and they did it. Was our win/loss record what we wanted. No. But we won in so many other ways. Our coach hired good players with big hearts who logged in more than 100 hours of community service. These guy gave back and made the Quad Cities their home. The staff worked tirelessly, including our interns, to make every game as fabulous as the last. We wanted funny and entertaining games and proved we could do it. Our goal was “good to great” and we did it. The owners stayed true to their word of giving back to the community and we pushed our giving over $150,000 this weekend! Monday morning at 9am we will reveal how much we gave back at our press conference at the TaxSlayer Center. Please join us in celebrating with our whole team. And me? This hometown girl from Eldridge, Iowa, who didn’t know a thing about hockey, was given the opportunity to break a glass ceiling and took it. I was awarded the highest honor in community service this week, the Athena Award, and I couldn’t be prouder. My crazy ideas worked and I made naysayers believers. I can’t thank the friends and family that supported me along the way cause I couldn’t have done it without you. And I will continue to believe in one motto. Never. Give. Up. I love you and thank you Storm fans!” – Top 30 Stories Of 2019 (#10 – #1)6.) Comedy Sportz is reborn as GiT: After 30 years, the improvisational troupe announced they will no longer play under the Comedy Sportz banner, instead changing their name to the GiT Improv and moving away from a static home to corporate and one-off gigs. The move was foreshadowed by their move from The Establishment Theater in Rock Island, after more than a decade, in the spring, and when it came time to renew their franchise with Comedy Sportz, it made more sense financially to go off on their own, utilizing their own brand. Since then, GiT has also resurrected their popular Late Nite Show series in downtown Moline’s Black Box Theater, bringing more R-rated fare to the improv slate. Comedy Sportz Quad-Cities, one of 29 groups nationwide, debuted March 20, 1990 in the Speakeasy next to Circa ’21. The franchise, based off the popular improvisational game slate created six years earlier and franchised to various locations nationwide in the years after, was brought to town by Jeff and Patrick Adamson and Brett and Denny Hitchcock, as a companion to next door’s Circa ’21. The show charmed from the start with its family-friendly humor and upbeat, goofy sense of fun, although it’s evolved considerably and become an incredible launching pad for talent over its three decades. In August 2010, Sportz moved to the Rocket Theater in Rock Island, just around the corner from the Speakeasy, at 220 19th St., and refurbished the building and re-dubbed it as The Establishment Theater. While it’s certainly a loss to the community to see the family-friendly entertainment spot go, it’s great that the talented people involved have found new arenas in which to perform and retain a creative presence in the area. – Top 30 Stories Of 2019 (#10 – #1)5.) Tripmaster Monkey returns after more than 20 year hiatus: One of the most successful bands in Quad-Cities history, Tripmaster Monkey were huge during the age of alt-rock and grunge. After forming in the late ‘80s as teens, the foursome signed to Sire/Elektra Records, had videos on MTV, landed a song on an Eric Stoltz/Bridget Fonda movie (which is about one of the most ‘90s things a band could do) and toured the U.S. and Europe in the Era of Clinton before going their separate ways, amicably, in 1997. The band had reunited periodically for shows over the ensuing two decades but it wasn’t until earlier this year that Jamie Toal, Chris Bernat, Marty Reyhons, Wes Haas and new member Eric Stone met up with producer and friend Pat Stolley,  and additional producers Jacob Ross (guitar) and Jeff Konrad (digital production) and began working on “My East Is Your West,” an album which, in my humble opinion, is the best of 2019. An amazing panorama of rock styles, mature songwriting and complex melodies and hooks, “MEIYW” is an absolutely brilliant album, the best by the band. It was followed by critical acclaim, solid sales and a handful of regional shows to packed crowds. What comes next for the group? Nothing is certain, but the band members say the doors are open for future works, and one would hope that “East” isn’t their last. – Top 30 Stories Of 2019 (#10 – #1)4.) Daytrotter Closes Its Doors: The writing had been on the wall since founder Sean Moeller had left, but it was still a disappointment, as Daytrotter’s downtown Davenport studio and performance space shut its doors and local production on recordings halted in the spring. The lightning rod for a renaissance of hipster chic in the downtown and the ignition for the spread of Moeller-led gigs to various other venues throughout the Quad-Cities, including The Rust Belt, Village Theater, Stardust and Raccoon Motel, among others, Daytrotter had a national resonance and its demise was a sad close to an era. – Top 30 Stories Of 2019 (#10 – #1)3.) Midcoast Fine Arts announces it’s ending operations in March 2020: Downtown Davenport took several massive hits in 2019, but none of them were bigger than this in terms of Quad-Cities-wide impact. While Daytrotter had been a local arts icon for a decade, Midcoast’s impact was for far longer, and much more local-centric, going back to the mid-‘90s, and was even more widespread. The group started and spurred by Dean Schroeder was a juggernaut in helping local artists and fueled everything from the spread of galleries showcasing local works to festivals and more. It’ll still be in operation through March 2020, but its influence is going to be felt and missed profoundly. Like Daytrotter going down, the demise of Midcoast and Bucktown Fine Arts was likewise foreshadowed for a while. Financial issues had been talked about behind the scenes for quite some time, and the massive flooding of downtown Davenport was a huge blow to the group. There was some talk of them not surviving to reopen after the flood, but, as always, the group persisted and kept on going. Unfortunately, it looks as if that merely stalled the inevitable. They will undoubtedly be missed. – Top 30 Stories Of 2019 (#10 – #1)2.) The Rust Belt opens, revitalizes East Moline: The Quad-Cities has long been looking for a mid-sized concert venue, something between the large club level and the arena size of the TaxSlayer Center. The Adler fits the bill somewhat, but it’s a theater, set up for certain types of shows, and when they tried hosting more raucous fare back in the ‘90s, it often resulted in damages, such as a certain infamous Rob Zombie show that led to a bunch of torn up chairs and carpet. Since then, it’s been pretty dry, until this year, when The Rust Belt opened on Valentine’s Day weekend with Sean Moeller-booked shows from Anderson East, LOLO, Hiss Golden Messenger, Lucie Silvas, Four Fists and more. Since then the East Moline spot has hosted Bon Iver, Fred Armisen, Jimmy Eat World, and a host of others. But it’s been more than the artistic acumen of the performers being brought to the area that’s put the opening of The Rust Belt up here in this spot on the list. It’s the impact it’s had on the area around it, and East Moline’s downtown in general. What used to be a post-industrial wasteland is now a bustling strip of new brew pubs, coffee shops and restaurants, all feeding off the heat of the new venue. After shows, downtown East Moline pubs are packed with people, bringing money into the coffers of businesses and tax revenue into the pockets of the city. It’s amazing to watch, seeing the arts revitalize an area, with a concert venue as the hub. It’s the same thing that happened to Moline more than two decades ago with the opening of The Mark. At any rate, good for East Moline, and good for the area, as the arts scene is richer for it.


THE NUMBER ONE BIGGEST STORY OF THE YEAR 2019: – Top 30 Stories Of 2019 (#10 – #1)1 .) Scott Beck and Bryan Woods break it big with “A Quiet Place” awards and “Haunt”: It took more than a decade struggling around Hollywood for filmmakers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods to become “overnight” successes, and more than a decade before that of the two Bettendorf-raised creators putting together dozens of local movies to get to L.A. But all of that turned and all of that hard work paid off when their script for a unique little thriller called “A Quiet Place” got snapped up and tagged with the power duo of John Krasinski and Emily Blunt and became the breakout buzz hit of 2018. Undoubtedly, their breakthrough was one of the biggest stories of last year, but the follow-through this year was even bigger. The duo started 2019 as the It Team of awards season, racking up nominations and trophies from everyplace from the Critics Choice Awards to the Writers Guild Awards to the Saturn Awards to the film being tabbed for an Oscar nomination. In the meantime, between getting their tuxes dry-cleaned, Scott and Bryan were hard at work with some guy named Eli Roth (might have heard of him… “Hostel” films, “Inglorious Basterds” with Quentin Tarantino…) on their first directorial effort they also wrote, “Haunt.” True to their word and their loyalty, they also grabbed former longtime collaborator and Quad-Cities actor Justin Marxen to star in that film, which went on to be a huge hit on the streaming and on-demand circuits and a critically-acclaimed and award-winning smash. Oh, yeah, and as if that wasn’t enough, they also signed on to work on an adaptation of Stephen King’s classic, “The Boogeyman” and are working on a horror anthology with the legendary Sam Raimi. Has stardom gone to their heads? Not in the least. I’ve known Scott and Bryan since I was working with them on short films in the early-mid 2000s, and they haven’t changed a bit. Part of that is probably because they were always down-to-earth and dedicated to their art from the beginning, part of that is also because they had to work hard and go through a number of false starts and failures to get to this point, and it was their dedication to their dreams and creativity that kept them going. That dedication remains the same, only now it’s got a bigger, and well-deserved, audience. Expect the duo to be regulars on this list for years to come, and, it’s a success that’s certainly earned. Well done, boys. – Top 30 Stories Of 2019 (#10 – #1)
Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters. – Top 30 Stories Of 2019 (#10 – #1)

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