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Exploring German Culture and Christmas Traditions at the German American Heritage Center

Amber Nowak
Brian Allen/Marc Zyla

In this episode of WHQC, we had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Allen, the Executive Director of the German American Heritage Center in Davenport, Iowa. Brian provided an overview of the exciting events and activities taking place at the center during December. One highlight was their annual Christkindlmarkt, featuring local artisans showcasing and selling their unique handmade crafts. The center's gift shop also offers a diverse range of Christmas gifts and imported items from Germany, including wooden toys, nutcrackers, smokers, and glass ornaments.

Brian discussed the current exhibits at the heritage center. One explores the fascinating history of German toys and their impact in America, while the other showcases art from the center's archives, some of which is being displayed for the first time. Additionally, Brian shared an interesting tradition: the building's large windows transform into an advent calendar, designed by students from the Creative Arts Academy. This creates a beautiful and interactive display for the community to enjoy.

Looking ahead, Brian mentioned upcoming events at the center, including an open house weekend scheduled for January 6-7th with free admission. The Eulenspiegel Puppet Theater will also be performing. Brian encouraged listeners to stay updated on rotating exhibits, changing every four months, by visiting their website (https://gahc.org/), checking their social media pages, or visiting in person.

We also had the opportunity to learn about what brought Brian to the Quad Cities. Originally from the Chicago suburbs, he and his wife moved to Iowa in 2010/2011 to pursue organic farming. Later, he pursued his education in museum studies, gaining valuable experience working at the Figge Art Museum for 10 years before taking on his current role as Executive Director of the GAHC. Brian provided his perspective on the growth and improvements in the downtown areas of the Quad Cities over the past decade, including the emergence of new restaurants, attractions like the Last Picture House, and increased investment by entrepreneurs in the local communities.

Marc Zyla joined WVIK, Quad Cities NPR in May 2022 as the Director of Community Engagement. Prior to that Zyla had been the Director of Education and Community Engagement with the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, where he continues to perform as Principal Horn. Zyla believes that there is something for everyone in public radio and brings passion and creativity to his position as Director of Community Engagement.