Big deal

Robert Wadlow and his brother Harold Jr. listen to the radio at home.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to Pam Bierman at Hayner Public Library: Genealogy & Local History Library, Brian Combs at Alton Museum of History and Art Inc. and Justin Parmley at Franklin Masonic Lodge for their assistance developing this spotlight.

 The Alton Museum of History and Art has a permanent display of the life and times of Robert Wadlow. It celebrates his birthday every year — actually every day — but this 100th birthday is cause for an “especially special” party on Feb. 22.

“AMHA is hosting an all-day event, with extended hours, free admission and complimentary desserts for all who join us,” Brian Combs, board president at the Alton museum, said. “The Robert Wadlow exhibit will also feature updates and improvements, with several previously undisplayed artifacts introduced. It will ideally be a whole and ‘holistic’ community event.”

In addition to inviting everyone into the Alton Visitors Center to sign a huge birthday card marking Wadlow’s 100th, the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau is taking the Gentle Giant’s big party online.

“We are coordinating a social media campaign in which Robert himself will guide us,” Brett Stawar, Alton CVB president and CEO, said.

The Where in the World is Robert Wadlow? campaign will kick off on Wadlow’s 100th birthday and allow social media enthusiasts to share their interactions with Wadlow as they move out and about in their daily travels. Stawar said they are looking more into the future development of a Wadlow Trail.

Old Bakery Beer Co. will be celebrating Wadlow’s 100th with the release of Gentle Giant Double IPA. Cans and draft of the special brew will begin pouring at 5 p.m. and are only available this year at the brewery. Miss Jubilee will perform live music from 6-8 p.m., with music from the era of Robert Wadlow’s heyday of the 1920s and ‘30s, including hot jazz, hokum and low-down blues. They will also have food and drink specials all evening. There is no admission charge.

Perhaps on a much more permanent and visible scale, the city of Alton is seeking proposals to develop 35.87 acres of land surrounding the Alton Regional Multi-Modal Transportation Center on its west, northwest, south, and southwest into the Wadlow Town Center. The site formerly was the Robert P. Wadlow Municipal Golf Course.

Robert Pershing Wadlow was just 22 when he left this Earth, but his legacy lives on, officially as the tallest man in the world and personally as Alton’s forever-cherished Gentle Giant. Turning 100 on Feb. 22, Robert will again be celebrated in grand style — as befitting someone of his stature.

TOMORROW: A larger than life childhood

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