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No question about why Mr. Trivia loves his job
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Photo: Gary Krambeck/gkrambeck@qconline.com
Tim "Mr. Trivia" Hanson.
MILAN -- True or false? Running a trivia-contest business is a fun way to make a living.

True, says Tim "Mr. Trivia" Hanson, of Milan.

"Yeah, I do love my job for several reasons," he said. "The biggest reason why is all the people I've met and made friends with, and all the people I've been able to help, especially military groups and people needing money for medical reasons."

At last count, Mr. Hanson figured he has helped groups raise $1.8 to $1.9 million in the 10 years he's been in business.

Last year was his best season, he said. He held 109 trivia contests in 2013 to break his previous record of 96 two years ago. His first year, he held six events.

"I really didn't know what the market for these would be like," Mr. Hanson said. "When I did six that first year, I thought that was cool. Now it has developed into a life of its own."

He previously worked as a private contractor, doing audio-visual, photography and graphic arts work at the Rock Island Arsenal.

But Mr. Hanson is reluctant to call his trivia business a "real job," because he enjoys it so much. "I think a 'job' is something you do, while not always enjoying it so much," he said.

He brought some of the high-tech applications he learned as a private government contractor to his trivia business. He uses power-point and audio-visual equipment to test people on their music, theater and television knowledge.

Over the years, Mr. Hanson has been able to refine the way he asks trivia questions to avoid confusion or translation problems.

"I've got a fairly good process developed by now," he said. "There's a method of putting these contests together, and a timing to it, especially when asking comical questions.

"My focus is to entertain people," Mr. Hanson said. "It's supposed to be fun. There's no life-changing money to be won. They're not going to walk away with a fortune."

Yet, he's noticed how his typical audience usually has two "camps" at play. Some groups are there for the social aspect and to have fun, while others are serious competitors who come to win. People who take it too seriously never appear to have as much fun, he said.

"I'm competitive, too, and understand how people always want to be, or think they are, right, but I mostly want to have fun."

He said the "measure of a good, successful event is when people come up to me afterward and say they had so much fun, and wonder where I'll be next. Another good measurement is when people are happy with the money it raised."

His business has grown mostly by word-of-mouth, he said. He recently heard from a man in Indianapolis who had heard about Mr. Trivia and wanted to negotiate travel expenses for Mr. Hanson to go there for an event.

Party packages cost from $150 for a basic one to up to $347 for a gold package designed for 50 teams, with several other prices in between depending on the number of contestants. For information or booking arrangements, visit mistertrivia.net, call 309-235-0895 or email mistertrivia@mchsi.com.

Mr. Hanson also holds trivia contests the third Thursday of every month, September through March, at the Speakeasy in Rock Island. He also has a 10th anniversary special drawing people can enter monthly. A winner of a free trivia event will be named in August.

Mr. Hanson would love to form a trivia league, similar to bowling and dart leagues.

"I don't know what the life span of this is going to be," he said of the trivia contest business. "I ask myself that all the time."

It's one question he really doesn't know the answer to, but he will continue to make it fun for as long as it lasts.

Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, Oct. 1, the 274th day of 2014. There are 91 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: It is rumored in the streets that the 13 negroes sent to Quincy on the Moline quota were refused. We think this must be a mistake.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Harvey McKenna, of Detroit, billiard player matched to play Wizard Schafer in New York in January for the world championship, was a professional friend and manager, Billy Catton in Rock Island.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Levi Cralle, former Rock Island county sheriff, had come from his farm near Mitchell, S.D. to visit friends in the city.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Work is being rushed on the new high school building in Orion to replace the one destroyed by fire last winter. Classes are being held in churches.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Rehearsals for the 84th season of the Handel Oratorio Society chorus will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday on the stage of Centennial Hall, Augustana College.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Rock Island City Council's plan announced this week to have the federal government vacate Valley Homes public housing and move residents to Arsenal Courts to reduce density may not be feasible.

(More History)