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Carl McClaskey always is on the move
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More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck/
Carl McClaskey is special projects director in the District of Rock Island.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck/
Carl McClaskey is special projects director in the District of Rock Island.
ROCK ISLAND — His mind races like a jackpot-spinning slot machine, and his memory and attention to detail are savant-like.

The words "satisfied" and "content" frighten the heck out of Carl McClaskey because no matter how good you were, yesterday is not today, and only today counts.

"What worked in the past, no matter how tried and true it might be, might not work today, and admiring something for any length of time only can lead to trouble," said Mr. McClaskey, who, after a star-studded event-planning career in Hollywood, returned to the Quad-Cities five years ago and became Renaissance Rock Island's special-events coordinator.

"When people ask what I do, and the 'story' begins, I'm always reminded of how and why I do this and how fortunate I am to have a career that is just part of my fabric," he said. "To me, it's what I do, and it's work. It's when I talk to others about my career and stuff that it hits me — I've got a pretty cool gig."

Mr. McClaskey works to strengthen and cultivate special events presented by The District. Throughout the year, the Alleman High School graduate leads District events such as Gallery Hop; Quad-Cities Criterium; Gumbo YaYa; Red, White & Boom; Ya Maka My Weekend; the Rock Island Grand Prix; and Fright Night.

He also moves barricades, works on corporate relationships, oversees large outdoor festivals, sets up and takes down fencing and picks up trash.

Mr. McClaskey is an idea-producing machine and secure enough in his own skin to know not every idea is a home run, although it never can be less than a triple.

He knows the world of entertainment and understands festivals can be fickle, that a summer thunderstorm along the Mississippi can affect profit and success. It does not, however, deter Mr. McClaskey from making every District event the best it can be.

"I'm amazed at what catches someone's eye when it comes to entertainment," he said. "The challenge is always figuring out what that is. I believe and I hope we have done that in my time here.

"You have to be an idea person but willing to listen to others and to those you seek to entertain. It's a juggle-fest of personalities and the unexpected, but the key is not to let the unexpected win."

The District in Rock Island is different from The Highlands Nightclub & Restaurant in Hollywood, Calif., a special-event venue and Wolfgang Puck-inspired restaurant in the Hollywood & Highland Entertainment Complex, home of The Kodak Theatre.

For years, Mr. McClaskey led the Hollywood party scene at The Highlands and guided events such as the cast and crew holiday party for "Frasier," "General Hospital's" 40th anniversary party, "Everybody Loves Raymond's" wrap party, and Usher's 21st birthday party.

He worked with ABC Television, the American Film Institute, Best Buy Media Achievers, Buena Vista International, Clear Channel Entertainment, ESPN, FOX Broadcasting, HBO, NBC, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Television, Wolfgang Puck and Wynn Las Vegas.

"There, I had a staff of over 100, and my job was to make sure everything the client needed, they got," Mr. McClaskey said. "It's a bit different here, but it's the same challenge and the same level of respect I have for what we produce and the many who help us here make it go."

Despite huge success on the West Coast, Mr. McClaskey said coming home was the right thing to do.

"I'm in L.A. prepping for my grandmother's 90th birthday," he said. "And my brother is out there raising his son, and then we lose my grandmother. I take step back and look around. I needed a change. I needed to come home and stay closer to my mother. This spot opened up, and I had a chance to see what The District is about and work on a plan."

Things in The District were not broken, but events were in need of some tweaking.

"I just kind of watched that first year, and we simply have built on strengths and turned weaknesses into strengths," Mr. McClaskey said. "I like what we have done."

He said the future is down the road. He loves what he does, but a time will come when he will again test life on the West Coast.

"Everything is great, but I have a hope someday to go back," he said. "Now, there is work to be done here, but that's something in the back of mind."

Local events heading

  Today is Saturday, Aug. 30, the 242nd day of 2014. There are 123 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: A large pair of elk, captured in Iowa, were exhibited in Market Square today.
1889 — 125 years ago: The Rock Island Arsenal dam was being constructed under the supervision of Charles Frances, of Lowell, Mass.
1914 — 100 years ago: Mrs. Frank Mixer, of Rock Island, was the winner of the final preliminary for the women's handicap golf cup at Rock Island arsenal links.
1939 — 75 years ago: Sixteen hundred persons — many from war-fearful Europe — arrived in New York aboard the German liner Bremen. For two days on the trip, passengers were cut off from the world with both incoming and outgoing radio messages banned.
1964 — 50 years ago: Police reported five youths have been involved in the theft of about seven cars in recent weeks. Three of the youths were arrested Saturday afternoon, one was in custody as the result of a previous arrest, and the fifth is expected to be arrested today.
1989 — 25 years ago: The Rock Island/Milan School Board is asking the city to tear down Franklin School and allow the school district to pay back the estimated $100,00 cost during 10 years.

(More History)