A chili cook-off. A Renaissance faire. A music festival. What do these things have in common, aside from being fantastic ways to spend a Saturday? They're all events that call the Hillcrest Event Center home. Set in the middle of a sprawling outdoor complex near the Quad Cities, the center plays host to all kinds of gatherings, from the big ones listed above to smaller parties for graduations, reunions, and corporate retreats. In addition to space, the center also sports facilities, including two pavilions, a 7,500-seat amphitheater, and three outdoor staging areas connected by over a mile of well-groomed trails.
With space for as many as 40,000 and as few as 100 guests, Hillcrest is an ideal destination for big groups. However, smaller parties can also find plenty to do here. The center's 9-hole golf course, swimming pool, and camping grounds entertain visitors day and night. A breezy par 30, the executive course caters to all experience levels, inviting beginners to take on its short holes while letting seasoned golfers hone their approach shots. After navigating the water hazards, guests can purposely head to the Olympic-sized swimming pool, which ripples at the center of a 3,000-square-foot sundeck where waiters serve poolside food and drinks. Or, dine at The BBQ Pit, home of the Illinois BBQ Fest.
As the sun sets, the crackling glow of fires peppers the campgrounds, illuminating the nylon sides of tents or canvas hulls of mobile RVs. Tent sites include access to the resort's hot showers and restrooms, while the RV facilities' hookups pump water and electricity into mobile homes so residents can bathe in private and use electric carving knives for whittling. When the sun rises, residents can begin their day with a hike on the resort's nature trails.
Although the staff makes operations look effortless, a massive amount of work goes into making Hillcrest run. Much of it is done in the name of learning; Hillcrest is a frequent destination for college interns, who learn on the job in fields ranging from Turf Management and Hospitality to Graphic Design and Social Media. The day-to-day operations are also memorialized in American Resort, a homebrewed reality show now in its fifth online season.