Over the course of its 20-year history, the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, Illinois, has become a special destination for many.
They come not just to see the big machines and innovative products that have impacted so many lives. They come because of their fondness for the company, its history and the role it’s played in their lives, which goes beyond that of a typical customer-business relationship.
The Pavilion has been a destination for Make-a-Wish families and for those who want to memorialize loved ones who held an affinity for John Deere. It’s been a stop for wedding parties to take pictures with Deere’s iconic machines.
One family even traveled all the way to Moline from Africa because the Pavilion was their 12-year-old son’s dream vacation.
“He could have chosen Disney or New York City, but he didn’t. He chose to visit Moline to see the John Deere Pavilion,” said Brigitte Tapscott, manager – John Deere Attractions.
And that’s why Deere opened the 14,000-square-foot glass and steel structure 21 years ago, said Mara Downing, director of Brand Management, to recognize the special relationship Deere has with customers from all over the globe.
“The Pavilion is a place for our fans to celebrate the past, present and future of John Deere,” Downing said. “From combines and dozers to excavators and forestry machines, at the Pavilion you don’t just see the evolution of equipment, you can get behind the wheel of innovation.”
Celebrating Four Million Visitors
When Kurt Snow made the last-minute decision to stop by the Pavilion in October, he was looking to entertain his 3-year-old son, Drake, not mark a milestone.
But that’s what the two Streator, Illinois, residents did when they walked through the Pavilion’s front doors. Snow was the pavilion’s four millionth visitor and the pavilion staff greeted him and his son with flowers and balloons.
“The next thing I knew I walked around the corner and there was a crowd behind me,” Snow recalled with a smile. “I was like, ‘What’s going on?’”
As the stars of the day, Kurt and Drake were congratulated by Pavilion staff and posed for several photos. They also received a $400 gift certificate for the John Deere Store next door.
Brigitte Tapscott, manager of the John Deere Attractions, said they’ve been tracking visitor entry to the Pavilion ever since it opened in 1997.
With the four-million visitor mark approaching, they were eager to celebrate the accomplishment and shine attention on an attraction that is a very popular tourist destination, averaging 180,000 to 210,000 visitors per year from all over the world.
“We were all very excited to welcome the Snows and celebrate this milestone together,” Tapscott said. “What made it even more special is that Kurt and his family have deep ties to John Deere. He was able to share great stories about his great grandfather, his grandfather, and how his entire family is connected to the brand through their mutual interest in vintage machines.”
A Riverfront Renewal
Serving as a centerpiece for Moline’s John Deere Commons, the Pavilion was part of a downtown revitalization project when it was built in 1997. The facility was designed to celebrate the company’s history, its modern equipment (some of which is on display), and John Deere’s role in contributing to mankind’s future, specifically building the machines that feed our growing global population.
Tapscott said they see every type of John Deere fan at the Pavilion from children on field trips to seniors on bus tours. Many families can also be found there on weekends, taking advantage of the free admission and giving little ones a chance to play while also learning.
Tapscott said the staff, which includes several Deere retirees serving as tour guides, are great at being able to share stories and details that engage guests regardless of how familiar they are with the company and our products.
“Our legacy area focuses on how Deere & Company got started and teaches guests about John Deere the man,” Tapscott explained. “Several of our exhibits offer hands-on learning for kids of all ages and can keep them entertained for hours. And our product enthusiasts learn about archival equipment all the way through new products currently being announced.”
“But what makes our exhibits successful is that they are displayed in a way that anyone can understand and find intriguing, whether you are a John Deere novice, or a passionate enthusiast.”
And if you haven’t visited the John Deere Pavilion recently, there is a good chance you will find something new.
“We change out equipment every 12 to 18 months,” Tapscott said. “We want to make sure we keep things fresh and give guests a reason to come back again and again.”
Some of the current Deere products on display include an 843L Feller Buncher (used in logging), a 560M Round Baler, an S770 Harvester, and a Gator. On the much smaller end there is the TANGO, an autonomous mower, which busily simulates mowing a lawn.
One of the next projects will be updating the Pavilion’s “Our Growing Planet” exhibit, which examines the big challenges that come with a growing global population and showcases ways John Deere is working to help address these issues. The exhibit is scheduled for completion in 2019.
A Family Connection
A few weeks after becoming the Pavilion’s four millionth visitor, Snow returned with his family so they, too, could see the exhibits.
“I always wanted to bring all the kids,” he said.
Snow also brought his 91-year-old grandfather, Norris Snow, who had never visited the Pavilion before. Norris worked at a John Deere dealership for 13 years and has restored four John Deere tractors, including his father’s (Kurt Snow’s great grandpa) 1941 Model B. Norris and his sons even drove the tractors in this year’s Fourth of July parade in Streator.
“Grandpa pulled a wagon with all the kids and grandkids in it,” Kurt Snow said of the parade.
Asked why he likes restoring old John Deere tractors, Norris smiled and replied: “It’ll work better after I get it done.”
Asked his impression of the Pavilion itself, he said “Unbelievable.”