An immersive museum that celebrates John Deere’s rich history and innovations, the John Deere Pavilion is a classic spot to visit in Moline, Ill. for residents and tourists alike. Opened in 1997 to honor the company’s past, present and future, people from all over the world regularly visit The Pavilion for its educational exhibits and cutting-edge machinery. Plus, the kid-friendly “Discovery Zone” lets children explore, from building bridges to creating stop-motion movies.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, The Pavilion is getting a lot of love—especially from its employees. Tour guides Ann Quist and Jean Miles have been part of the John Deere family for a long time. Having retired from their full-time positions with the company twenty years ago, both women decided to start working at The Pavilion. But really, it was more like coming home.
What was your full-time job at John Deere?
AQ: I worked as an administrative assistant for the director of the market economics department until I retired. I was trained on the computer [doing] long range and short range forecasting.
JM: I started as a full-time employee in 1964 … I worked for several vice presidents and three presidents at Deere & Company. During my time, the computers came online and our office was the first one on the Executive floor to get a computer. I had the usual secretarial duties, setting up meetings, writing letters and company bulletins, greeting visitors, and trying to keep everything running smoothly.
Why did you want to work at The Pavilion after retiring?
AQ: I was recruited. I wanted to think about it, because training started in July and I retired in April. But by July, I was more than ready to do something! I went to the training session and by the Grand Opening, I was working and have been ever since. It’s been a great experience.
JM: I was retired for a couple of years, and looking for something to do part time. About that time, they began building The Pavilion. I interviewed for a job and was hired as a tour guide. I found I loved meeting and greeting the visitors!
What’s it like being a tour guide?
AQ: At first, there were long hours, and in those days, I had to greet people, tell them about the machines on the floor, and tell the story of John Deere. Now, it’s more self-explanatory, but guests still like tour guides to present them an overview.
JM: My tour starts with the John Deere history, the man and the company, and carries through and around the building, talking about the machines. I like to point out the artwork in the ceiling, too! I start talking and sometimes get carried away, but normally my tour is about 30 minutes. We have a lot of school groups visit and bus groups from all over the country. I have talked to visitors from every state in the U.S. and many countries around the world.
How has The Pavilion changed over 20 years?
AQ: It was more of a display floor previously, and now there’s more of a children’s display, too. They also put in the simulators, which they didn’t have in the earlier years—men and little boys love to play with them!
JM: For many years, they’d change out equipment once a year in October. The whole neighborhood would watch the new machines driven in and put in place. Now, they change out one machine at a time. What we have on display is always the newest equipment available at our dealerships, so you can go right out and buy that after visiting The Pavilion. We also have an enlarged play area. Many families come in every week to play and to climb.
From Past To Present
What makes the Pavilion so special?
AQ: It’s free! … It’s a wonderful thing for the community, for families to bring the children and let them get in the machines. In September 2008, I was asked to come in at 8AM to greet people from Thailand. It was a wonderful experience and as they left, I was invited to Thailand! That was a highlight for me.
JM: It’s a good place for families to come, because the little ones have the play area and can climb on the equipment. It’s a unique place. My best memories are of the people that come to The Pavilion from all over the world. I feel it’s been a privilege to be a part of that.
Tell us about your favorite exhibit?
AQ: I love the legacy of the John Deere corridor—there’s pictures of the family and a replica of the self-scouring plow. It’s a great way to start all tours. Kids love it, too! There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to the history of John Deere.
JM: The Combine — everyone likes it because it’s the biggest machine in The Pavilion. The farmers know how it works, but visitors from the city like to hear what it does and how it does it. I like the historic display with the old plow and the history of John Deere coming to Illinois and how active he was in the community.
What do you want people to know about The Pavilion?
AQ: It’s a wonderful display of history and they’re bringing in so many new things. It’s an education for young and old alike. It’s a very popular place for many reasons—bringing in the family, spending time and free admission.
JM: I like our guests to feel welcome and let them discover the history of John Deere, the man and the company. John Deere changed the face of Moline. In the past 20 years, there have been good times and difficult times for Deere & Company, but the company has survived and prospered and is stronger than ever. I’d never imagined I’d be here 20 years [later] … time flies when you’re having fun!