The tiny star of Illinois' tourism commercials, Mini Abe, is spending the week in the Quad Cities. The marketing mascot is part of a social media campaign to promote local travel, and he's gained a large following across the country.
"We met a group of people from Minnesota this morning, and they saw the commercials up in Minnesota and just loved him and were really excited to see him in person," said David Breisch.
This week, Mini Abe has met John Deere Classic winner Jordan Spieth, water-skied with the Backwater Gamblers, and eaten his fill at Harris Pizza, Whitey's Ice Cream, and Bent River Brewery. Each stop is photographed and posted on the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau Twitter account.
"It's been a lot of fun," laughed Beth Lagomarcino, after Mini Abe stopped by the Moline ice cream parlor Thursday afternoon.
Since 2013, Mini Abe has starred in several commercials for Enjoy Illinois using his signature catchphrase, "Whoa!" The pint-sized president has also posed for pictures in communities around the state.
State tourism officials say Mini Abe helped raise inquiries 78 percent over the previous year.
"Tourism is a great economic generator for the Quad Cities. It's over $800 million every year that comes into the Quad Cities from tourism," said Jessica Waytenick with the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau.
And even longtime Quad City businesses say tourism is key to their success.
"It's huge, it really is huge. In the summer we see it the most, but there isn't a week that goes by that we don't have people in from out of town," said Lagomarcino.
Friday, Mini Abe is scheduled to visit Gumbo Ya Ya in Rock Island and the new Ferris wheel at Modern Woodmen Park. He then heads to Quincy, Illinois, for more adventures.