As the story goes, nearly 30 years ago on Presidents Day, a group of regulars chatting in Jody’s Bar came to a surprising conclusion–five of them shared the name Bill. Jimmy Hiller says the late Bill Maher, a celebrated local artist, exclaimed, “we ought to have a National Bill Day!” His friends, the late Bills Hahn, Lechner, and Smith, as well as Bill Coram, who still frequents Jody’s to this day, agreed. From this declaration, one of Jody’s longest running fundraisers and social events came to life.
Every year on the Saturday before Saint Patrick’s Day, a big group of Bills, along with their friends and anyone looking for good fun for a good cause, comes out to Jody’s for an afternoon of entertainment. Bill Day’s organizers collect freewill donations, which they donate to a charity they all agree on. This year, they plan to give the proceeds either to the Salvation Army of Muscatine County’s food pantry or to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
Along with catching up with old friends and discussing summer plans for attending car shows, traveling, and the like, Bill Day features many fun giveaways. An event that many of Jody’s suppliers have gotten behind, they always get fun prizes to raffle off throughout the day.
A time honored tradition, one lucky Bill Day attendee gets to go home with a special beer can trophy to keep for a year. Originally donated by Billy Beer, organizers select one Bill Day goer who has attended for at least two years to sign and take the trophy home. After close to 30 years, Bill Day has moved onto its second can. After an unfortunate incident where the first can (a full one) leaked in a recipient’s closet, they now use an empty one handled carefully to keep its shape.
Over the years, the founding Bills have invited numerous famous Bills, including former president Bill Clinton and actor Bill Murray, to join them. Though none have made an appearance, organizers have swelled the number of Bills at the event by requesting everyone in attendance create a Bill themed name tag at the event. They have also brought in other area Bills for the occasion. At its peak, 15 Bills attended. Currently, Bills Coram, Hill, Nyweide, and Richardson continue to participate in the event.
Though Bill Day will not have the crowds it experienced in its early days due to the COVID-19 pandemic (in some years so many people attended that participants had to go out the front door and come in the back door to use the restroom) everyone involved hopes it will still have a good turn out and that it will raise a fair amount of money for their chosen organization. The organizers also request anyone enjoying alcoholic beverages to drink responsibly so the event stays fun and safe for all involved.