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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 Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.

(More History)