QuadCities.com Top Stories Of 2020: Part Two. MARCH. The Apocalypse Begins…
It’s time for our look back at the year that was in arts and entertainment, 2020. Every day between now and New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, we’ll be posting a story painting the big picture on the year, a couple months each day.
We hope you enjoy the look back, and let’s all hope for a happy new year and a much, much, much, much better 2021!
Here’s today’s installment, where we look at the longest month of the year, and probably the decade, that being MARCH OF 2020.
I think if there’s a time during the year that encapsulates 2020, it’s this time.
March was complete and utter chaos.
Nobody knew what was going to happen.
Nobody knew what was happening.
Nobody knew what was going to happen next.
Including we at QuadCities.com, as we were watching the bread and butter of our coverage — arts and entertainment — get completely obliterated, thus eliminating all of our subjects of news coverage, not to mention completely destroying our advertising base. Interesting times.
So, here we are, the shutdown begins, we start running dozens of stories on everything being canceled, there’s a run on toilet paper and supplies, “Tiger King” becomes a thing, and before you know it, there are riots and chaos and the world pretty much goes completely upside down during this time. Here’s the recap.
For previous installments, check out our recap of the “normal” time of the year, January and February here.
Keep an eye out tomorrow for April and May…
But now, we present to you, a look back at
Hey! Remember when there were still live events going on in the beginning of March?
I remember actually going out and doing things. Playing soccer games. Going to the gym. Hanging out with friends at Bent River. Seeing live music being played while we were there in person and not watching from our laptops. Because yes, Virginia, there were actually live shows going on.
Blippi Live hit the Adler, Kamasi Washington played The Rust Belt, and the Antique Spectacular filled the QCCA Expo Center as we entered into our last two weeks of normalcy for the year in regard to live performances and events.
Ballet Quad Cities presented “Sleeping Beauty,” Bill Engvall played at Rhythm City, and Foreigner came to the Adler.
Fourth Wall Films had plenty to celebrate, as nominations came thundering in for local filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle and their latest feature, “Sons And Daughters of Thunder!” Kelly received another nomination from the Iowa Motion Picture Association, this time for “Best Direction–Long Form” on the film. According to Tammy’s facebook, “I am so pleased for him in receiving this recognition for his hard work on this narrative film project. Congratulations again, honey! I’m beaming!”
In addition, “Sons And Daughters Of Thunder” was nominated by the Iowa Motion Picture Association for “Best Narrative Feature.”
Circa ’21 was still holding shows, and Manny Lopez Big Band played live at Circa ’21, one of the last live events there before the shutdown.
PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING GOT SHUT DOWN.
Every venue from the TaxSlayer to the Adler to Circa ’21 to all the other local theaters shut down.
None of them had any idea at that time that most of them would be shut down for the rest of the year.
Some of them would re-open, briefly, then shut down again. A couple times.
Some of them, sadly, wouldn’t re-open at all. Bucktown and all Midcoast Fine Arts venues, which were scheduled to have their final hurrahs during March, were denied those public goodbyes, a dour finale to an organization with such a rich legacy and history.
Pretty much 80-90 percent of the stories I wrote between March 13 and 30 were about events being canceled or postponed.
And with that, QuadCities.com had to very quickly reinvent itself.
I’d already started planning the transition back in January when I had a conference call with primary owner Steve Holmes and brought up the topic of a worst case scenario: “What if everything gets shut down? Almost all of our stories are about live events and things happening. We’ll have to completely rethink our paradigm in regard to coverage and what we write about and present to people.”
But, I had a ton of ideas, and over the course of a couple of weeks, we hashed them out and came up with a game plan that was adaptable depending on what happened. So, we were able to hit the ground running once things went completely pear shaped. Of course, every day I was writing 20-30 stories about things getting canceled, that was news people needed to know.
Then we transitioned into reporting about the things people WERE going to be doing during the shutdown. We came up with a massive list of restaurants open for carry-out and delivery. We wrote about all the offerings on Netflix and other streaming services. We wrote profiles of local creators and what they were doing during quarantine, to keep them in the public eye and on people’s radars. We covered any events and things going on in relation to the local arts scene.
And we began to expand more fully into digital shows.
We’d already been doing a ton of podcasts for the previous couple of years, and had done a few digital shows, but nothing with the consistency we would over the coming months into 2020. We started to develop shows for people to watch and enjoy and began to team up with area creators doing cool things to expand our focus of QuadCities.com. And we were the only local media to do that, something of which we’re very proud.
The new virtual landscape began to be staked out, and folks started to debut performances online and new digital shows. We at QuadCities.com were one of the spots leading the way, with new digital shows from comedian Andrew King, Tristan Tapscott, Khalil Hacker, yours truly, and more.
Josh Duffee was among the local musicians to embrace the new digital world as well and began offering performances. And Socially Distant Fest debuted with a variety of artists. We started to offer the same great coverage to these local events that we had to in-person gigs.
We also started to report a bit on the virus itself and started to try to inform people about it, expanding our health coverage.
But we also opened the site up to more humor as well, because we, and everyone else, needed to laugh during this really depressing time.
Thankfully, with everything from the local St. Patrick’s Day festivities to NBA and NHL games being canceled, Quad-Cities comedian Andrew King came up with this interesting and informative look at the virus and it’s spread. He was not making light of the situation, but this does offer some information while not completely scaring the crap out of people.
There were other tragedies as well on the area arts scene.
The singular John VanDeWoestyne – a large man with a big name, a booming voice, enormous heart, and even bigger theatrical talent – left this earth Wednesday, March 25. The Geneseo institution (he was a veteran city employee, retiring as public works director) was just 66, and
not only leaves behind his wife Judy, and daughters Emily and Sarah, but a staggering body of work and memories we can cherish.
Also lost was local journalism veteran Laura Fraembs, who worked with me at the Argus, Dispatch and Times. Laura was a fantastic editor and a great person, and her loss has definitely been felt in and out of the newsroom.
In some rare good news in March, the Region 7 Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration named American Power Systems Inc. (APS), in Davenport, Iowa as the Small Business Exporter of the Year for the State of Iowa and for SBA’s Region 7 (which includes the states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska). APS president Amy Lank and the export team at APS of Tyler Fangmann, Vince Kresho and Brandy Welvaert were recognized for the company’s increased growth in export markets, their effective use of federal and state export programs, and their overall dedication to exporting.
And on a personal note in regard to QuadCities.com, one good thing DID come out of March. My old friend Jonathan Turner, who had been among the many people laid off by the Quad City Times, joined our team at QuadCities.com, and has since become a fantastic addition to the QuadCities.com family! So, even during dark times, there was some good news!
Tune in for our next episode of Top Stories of 2020 as we look at April, the first month where things began reaching something called “a new normal.” What was that normal? Find out…