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A year like no other: From education to entertainment, COVID-19 changed everything

DAVENPORT, Iowa – Some years I have to cast around for top stories in Home & Garden.

Not this year.

In this section as elsewhere, COVID-19 took center stage. Stuck at home, Quad-Citians helped children with their school work, tackled home improvement projects, planted more gardens, baked and searched for things to be happy about.

They also canceled events — spring plant sales, 50th anniversary celebrations of Earth Day, summer garden tours, the biannual quilt show and the Gold Coast tour of homes.

Also canceled were the Illinois and Iowa state fairs, the Rock Island County and Mississippi Valley Fair, 4-H competitions, fall and holiday bazaars and the Quad-City Arts Festival of Trees.

The latter prompted Tim Riley, of Eldridge, and Jackson Frerichs, of Davenport, to create do-it-yourself Sugar Plum balls for their daughters at home, complete with dinner, dessert, dancing, flowers and fancy clothes.

Former Times staffer and “Home Rookie” columnist Stephanie De Pasquale Soebbing took time out from her quilt business to sew and ship face masks for coronavirus protection, and showed us how to do it ourselves.

Bird-watching soared both nationally and in the Quad-Cities as people with little else to do finally took notice of a fascinating world just outside their windows.  Kelly McKay, of Hampton, Illinois, tells me he has twice as many people signed up to be “feeder watchers” during this year’s Christmas Bird Count as in a normal year.

Sales increased for bread cookbooks, small cooking/baking appliances, toilet paper and hand sanitizer, and some animal shelters saw increased demand for pets. Veterinarian Jennifer Ewoldt says veterinarians in general are busier now than they’ve ever been, either because people have more pets, or they are noticing them more.

It was one thing after another.

Reader Wendy Van Dyke, of Davenport, sent a letter explaining that she looked for ways to experience joy, making paper hearts for her window or browsing the  peonies at the Stampe Lilac Garden in Davenport.

But she doubtless spoke for others when she said, “while all of this is a temporary panacea for my anxiety, the worry still persists.

“I feel concern for the pervasive fear, for people struggling to get by with a faltering economy and for those faced daily with racial injustice.

“I hope that one day soon this ‘New Normal’ shall pass and that I will awaken without the tension in my stomach and once again be able to relax.

“I want to travel, listen to live music, and go to the theater. I long to sit with a live audience experiencing a shared emotional response, and in this way to expand my horizons and to increase my knowledge of our world.”

Last month, as COVID-19 numbers spiked, I wrote a column titled “What’s wrong with people? Don’t they care?” about people refusing to wear masks. I received both positive and negative feedback.

One reader wanted studies.

The mask divide reflects the political divide that plagues our country.

We’ve been through a lot this year, and now we stand on the brink of a brand new one.

Before we go, I’d like to thank contributors and highlight major stories and topics that filled our Sunday mornings.

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