Special Events (and clever marketing stuff)
Marando’s offered patrons an array of special events. Dozens of Quad Citians partook in Marando’s-sponsored trips to the Rose Bowl and the Kentucky Derby. The sojourn to the Rose Bowl included a cool two-day stopover in Las Vegas – Jimmie’s favorite getaway. Billed as the Marando’s Rose Bowl Special, the $300-per-person event included all the trimmings plus seats at the game and accommodations at The Dunes Hotel. Jimmie’s entrepreneurial spirit was well ahead of its time. He chartered the group aboard TWA Constellation, as it was known then, well before such trips became popular.
Following are just a few of the many events that thousands of people enjoyed:
1958 Iowa-Notre Dame Game
Jimmie Marando’s love of college football prompted the first of several group trips to sporting events. The inaugural trip was to Iowa City for the 1958 Iowa-Notre Dame game. He chartered private rail cars to host the event, included tickets, travel and meals for a single price.
Wrote W.J. Reese of Interstate Engineering, of the experience: The Mayor of Milan and myself enjoyed ourselves immensely, this was greatly due to the efforts on your part to make it an enjoyable trip.
1964 – 1965 Rose Bowl Special
A few years later, Jimmie arranged group chartered trips to Pasadena, Calif. for the Rose Bowl. He did it at least twice, in 1964 and 1965. The trips were billed the Marando’s Rose Bowl Special, included travel via TWA Constellation, tickets to the game – and a 2 ½ day stay at the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas – all for $300 per person. Illinois, by the way, won the ’64 ballgame 17-7 behind Jim Grabowski and a punishing defense. The following year’s pricetag jumped to $330, but fans were not disappointed as Michigan defeated Oregon State, 34-7. As for Vegas, you know the old adage, whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!
Kentucky Derby 1964
In 1963 and 1964, customers were treated to a three-day trip to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Marando’s offered a package deal that included two nights’ stay in Chicago the first night, then Louisville the night before the race. Terrace-level tickets and travel aboard the Rock Island Line was included, all for $175. A first-cabin affair with all the trimmings. Chateugay was the 1963 winner. Northern Dancer won it in ’64.
Social Media Takes Flight: New Years Eve Balloon Drop Promotion
Ever the promoter, Jimmie was always looking for new and clever ways to promote the night club. Some were clunky, but on New Years Eve 1964 and 1965, he pulled a stunt that was in many ways an early example of social networks. Long before the creators of Facebook and Twitter were even born, he attached envelopes containing hand-written letters to clusters of helium balloons, awarding a “small prize” to the person who returned them. One such winner was Mr. Nyle Lee from Ohio.
In order to give the balloon clusters “balance,” he attached pieces of aluminum foil along with the envelopes. One of the letters was found in Ohio, another in Michigan. The “small prize” was dinner for four and special seats near the dance floor on a Friday or Saturday night at the club. The aerial launch caught the attention of air traffic controllers at Quad City Airport and made the evening news a few nights later on at least two of the Quad Cities’ three TV stations – earned media that was priceless. Said Jeff Marando years later: “If the people who found those letters had to fly to get here, Jim often times paid the plane fare and put them up in a local motel. He always did things first cabin.”
Rock Island All-Star Sports Nights
Hosting local and national sports groups and personalities was always a Marando’s favorite. Some of the biggest names of the 1960s appeared there: Ken Bowman, center for the Green Bay Packers; Gene Oliver, of Milan, and Joe Collier, the coach of the Buffalo Bills.
The National League’s last 30-game winner made two visits to Marando’s during the 1950s – long after his playing days. According to Jeff, the pitcher made a surprise appearance in 1956, then again shortly before the 1959 World Series.