WQPT, the locally owned and operated PBS station, will celebrate its 40th anniversary next month.

The station is holding a gala event on Friday, April 21 at Old Oaks Winery in Milan, with a 6 p.m. cocktail reception and 7 p.m. dinner and program. Tickets are $100 per person, available at the 40th anniversary website HERE.

Special guests at the gala will include Whitney Reynolds of “The Whitney Reynolds Show,” and Jim Mertens, host of “The Cities.” They both air on Thursday nights on WQPT.

What began as a vision by a small group of dedicated citizens in 1983—with just four hours of daily programming—now reaches more than 800,000 viewers in Iowa and Illinois 24/7, according to a Wednesday station release.

The Whitney Reynolds Show airs on WQPT on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.

Viewers are able to access programming through over-the-air signals, streaming, cable/dish providers and on-demand digital delivery. In addition to their primary public television channel, WQPT also broadcasts a secondary channel—Deutsche Welle.

The journey to a local public TV station took several years, hundreds of volunteers and the tireless focus of one man, Robert Fletcher, WQPT’s first general manager. In the early days, volunteers were recruited at a Friends of WQPT booth at SouthPark Mall, Moline.

One of those recruiters was the first president of the Friends group, a woman named Evelyn Perlmutter and one of those early volunteers would go on to become WQPT’s fifth GM, Rick Best.

WQPT was the first station to switch from analog to digital television in the Quad Cities and WQPT was the first station in the nation to enter into a public/private relationship to establish their master control offsite through fiber.

“The Cities” with Jim Mertens airs on WQPT Thursdays at 7 p.m.

WQPT supplements their on-air programming with off-air educational outreach. This includes visits to libraries throughout the region, teaching family learning/ESL classes weekly and partnering with teachers to place free books in the hands of at-risk-children.

This past year, they interacted face-to-face with 8,887 people through community events, after school programs and visits to local classrooms.

One of the reception areas at Old Oaks Winery, Milan.

Over the years, WQPT’s events have included Imagination Station, The Ready to Learn Races, Brew Ha Ha, The Wall That Heals and many more. Programs like a live call-in program named “Calling Representative Evans” with the late Congressman Lane Evans answering calls on the air, to “Currents at the Crossroads” with the late Ellis Kell.

 WQPT-PBS partnered with Moline-based Fourth Wall Films in 2015 to co-produce the Mid-America Emmy nominated “Letters Home to Hero Street,” which tells the story of Frank Sandoval who died while serving in Burma, India during WWII. 

Public affairs programming including shows like “Perspective” to “The Cities with Jim Mertens,” now in its 13th year on the air. Award-winning documentaries like “The River Rescuer: Chad Pregracke” to “Letters Home to Hero Street,” focused on our community and the many amazing things and extraordinary people in the QCA and surrounding area, the release said.

WQPT’s license, originally held by Black Hawk College, was transferred to Western Illinois University in 2010, making WQPT a self-sustaining department within the university.

While WQPT PBS is entirely self-funded through generous donations from viewers like you and sponsor support, WIU provides in-kind support toward our important educational mission—and is the license holder.

“Infantryman” film showing on WQPT

“An Infantryman from Hero Street,” a new documentary (which premiered this past November) by regional Emmy award-winning filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle of Moline-based Fourth Wall Films, will air on WQPT Sunday, March 26 at 7 p.m. and again on Tuesday, March 28 at 5 p.m.

Emmanuel Juarez as Joseph Sandoval in “An Infantryman from Hero Street” (Fourth Wall Films).

“An Infantryman from Hero Street,” the fourth episode in the award-winning “Hero Street” documentary series, tells the true story of PFC Joseph Sandoval, who was born in a boxcar to Mexican immigrants in the Silvis rail yard. In 1944 Joe, married with two young sons, was drafted and shipped to Britain with the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment.

His unit helped fight the second stage of the Normandy Invasion in France. In April 1945, the Allied forces reached an agreement regarding post-war Germany, and Joe and his fellow soldiers were told the war was essentially over. Joe was killed just days later (at age 26) during a German counter-attack near the Elbe River in Schönebeck, Germany.

Real-life brothers Manny Juarez, left, and Eric Juarez, as Joe and Frank Sandoval (Fourth Wall Films).

“An Infantryman from Hero Street” stars Emmanuel Juarez as Joe Sandoval, Eric Juarez reprising his role as Joe’s brother Frank Sandoval, and actor Matt Walsh as 1st Lt. Frank Houcek. The film features commentary by First Army Support Command Historian 1st Lt. Kevin Braafladt, Rock Island Arsenal; authors Marc Wilson (“Hero Street, USA”), Carlos Harrison (“The Ghosts of Hero Street”) and John C. McManus (“September Hope”); and members of Joe Sandoval’s family, including Tanilo Sandoval, Henry Sandoval, Georgia Herrera and Irene Mawson.

“Letters Home to Hero Street” (co-produced by WQPT) will air after each of this month’s “Infantryman” showings. WQPT provided its broadcast studio for filming portions of the documentary. WQPT’s Lora Adams assisted with production, and Chris Ryder created special visual and sound effects.

For more information, visit the station website HERE.