Quincy, IL, a tiny city on the bluffs of the Mississippi River, is the place we call home. While Brodie has only been here for four years, I was born and raised in Q-Town. After finishing college in St. Louis, I made my way back to the Gem City. It was never the path that I saw for myself, but if I’ve learned anything over the last 8 years, it’s that the best things happen when you allow change to happen. Since coming back, I’ve gotten to know Quincy as an adult, as opposed to my angst-inspired teenage view of the city. While it is not always perfect, it is home, and I love it very much.
To those who have never been to Quincy or are new to the area, the best way I can describe it is as a combination of Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls and Pawnee, IN from Parks & Rec. We have a charming town square complete with a gazebo, we have cute festivals (when there aren’t pandemics), and you’re very likely to bump into your neighbor while grabbing a cup of coffee. However, we also have city council people who are remarkably similar to Jeremy Jam, local news pages are filled with toxic comments about how “terrible” things are here, and everyone wants the potholes fixed, but no one wants to pay extra taxes to actually have them fixed (and when they are fixed, people want to complain about the construction). It’s our fascinating little corner of the world. Brodie likes to compare “Quincy Things” to Lil Sebastian. For instance, we have more than one pizza/Mexican food restaurants, and I didn’t realize that was a weird combo until I went to college…
My favorite part about living in the midwest is the changing of seasons. I think there is a natural type of magic that happens as one season ends and the next one begins. The simplest way for me to describe Quincy is to explore what the area has to offer based on the four seasons each year.
Winter: While I do not always love the cold and ice of a Midwestern winter, I like to take a cue from Lorelai Gilmore and recognize the magic in the first show of the season. There is something so peaceful and quiet when the first snow falls in our little town. The Christmas holiday season is my favorite. Quincy manages to pull off several Hallmark-like events each year. For the last two years, I worked for our downtown organization and got to be a part of creating those events. Washington Park, our town square, gets covered in white lights, and we have a park lighting ceremony complete with a processional leading Santa & Mrs. Claus to their house in the park. Free hot chocolate and cookies are provided for everyone, and kids can visit Santa for free as well. Each Thursday night throughout the season, Santa & Mrs. Claus are back in their house, and there are special events in the park-like Caroling and Character night (where community members dress up like specialty characters and greet the kiddos).
There is a bar we like to go to that is on the square, and there is nothing better than drinking a bottle of wine with friends and enjoying the beautiful park all lit up. The rest of the winter I generally spend inside and in the homes of those I love, having quality time (while still being warm). My favorite February event that I host annually is Galentine’s Day. It is the best TV holiday and I will fight you Leslie Knope style if you disagree.
Spring: After January and February, I am always more than ready for the changes spring brings to Quincy. Even though we’ve certainly had snowstorms in March and April, something about the transition between February and March just feels like we’ve all crossed a finish line.
Quincy has been a certified Tree City for the last 35 years, and we have a beautiful canopy that lines our Maine Street (yes, it’s spelled like the state – it’s a Quincy thing). The canopy comes to life in the spring as it fills out and lines our stunning historic homes with luscious greenery. And let’s talk about the flowers. Blooms of every color fill yards and trees in early May. We have an abundance of Dogwood trees in Quincy. In fact, we have so many, that we have an entire parade dedicated to them the first weekend in May. The local high school marching bands play, businesses and organizations build floats and give out candy to the kids. It’s a great community event.
Summer: More and more, Summer heat takes hold before we even say goodbye to May. While I am not the biggest fan of the summer humidity, made worse by the July/August corn sweat (it’s a thing, I promise), I do love the myriad of summer activities and extra daylight Quincy has to offer during these months. First things first, there is nothing more magical than an early summer night in a small town when the sun begins to fade and the lightning bugs come out to visit for the first time. Dusk turns into dark and the little lights continue to dance on top of the green grass under a sky blanketed with stars. I once had a friend visit from Florida who had never seen a firefly before and she was blown away.
In addition to the magic nature gives us, Quincy also (during non-pandemic years) has a full lineup of summer fun. One of my favorites is Blues in the District.
Blues is a summer concert series that happens 6 Fridays a summer in Washington Park. These Blues (music) concerts are free to the entire community. Thousands of people bring their lawn chairs, their coolers full of booze (we’re a German catholic town – we like to drink), and meet their friends and family in their favorite spot in the park to unwind and socialize. Every Saturday morning you can visit the Farmers Market, which also sets up in Washington Park, to purchase produce and goods from local farmers and makers. We have several large festivals and celebrations throughout the summer including our Arts Faire (Q-Fest) and our 4th of July celebration which either happens on our riverfront or on a large lawn at our Veterans Home. I think the real magic to all of these events is the community coming together. It’s so nice to visit with people you wouldn’t normally get a chance to see and experience something, like a concert or festival, all together.
Fall: I love Christmas so much, but the entirety of fall wins for my favorite time of the year. The colors, the cozy sweaters, the crisp chill in the air, the flavors, combined with the small-town charm, all equal the best time of the year. Remember how I said Quincy is a Tree City? Well, that Maine Street canopy is absolutely stunning in late October/early November. I love to take late afternoon walks through the mazes of historic residential architecture and just soak in that fall feeling. When I was in college, I spent a fall semester studying abroad in London. It was an amazing experience and I obviously wouldn’t change it for the world, but I commented to my best friend one day that I did really miss seeing the fall leaves in Quincy. Being the stellar human being she is, she collected leaves for me while she was on fall break, put them in a jar, and brought them to me at the Airport when I landed back in the states in December.
While my allergies don’t love it, I love being outside in the fall. Quincy is home to Edgewood Orchards, an apple orchard that also has a shop that sells the most amazing cider, baked goods, and of course – apples.
We have not one, but two Oktoberfests in Quincy. One is a traditional Oktoberfest held in the street on the second Saturday of October at the historic Dick Brothers Brewery. We have our own Heidelberg band that pays and there is a .2 K which involves running while eating a brat and drinking a beer (Brodie won one of the heats two years ago). The other event is Octoberfest, which is a Quincy Senior High marching band competition. It might sound like a strange thing to be excited about, but I love this event too. I used to work the event in high school (I was a choir kid, not a band kid, but we always volunteered to help out our fellow musicians). The event starts with a parade of 20+ regional high school marching bands. Honestly, the bands are my favorite parts of parades, so I love it. And then there is a field show competition at the high school stadium, which I also love because I’m the kid who went to high school football games to see the band, not the game. In addition to these events, there is a downtown trick or treat event, which is SO cute, a progressive dinner through local restaurants and bars, and a Christkindl Market in November filled with beautiful artisan vendors.
As the leaves fall and the season rotates back to Winter, we prepare to do it all again. The pandemic has taken a lot of these events and traditions away this year. It hasn’t exactly brought out the best in Quincy overall, but I am hopeful that when we are able to safely gather and resume our normal slate of seasonal activities, that people will be even more grateful for what our town has to offer.