Now in its 10th year, Stroll on State is a highlight of the year for thousands of area residents who look forward to kicking off the holiday season together. This year’s event will take place from 2-9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, in downtown Rockford, in an area bordered by Jefferson, Church, Chestnut and Third streets.
The free community celebration attracted 65,000 visitors last year from the stateline and beyond. Along with building community spirit, Stroll on State supports local businesses and offers a festive afternoon and evening of music, activities, food and fellowship.
A project of the Rockford Area Visitor and Convention Bureau (RAVCB) and funded by dozens of local sponsors, Stroll on State is always held on Small Business Saturday.
“The whole purpose of the event is to bring the community together and take time to welcome in the holiday season,” says Kristen Paul, vice president of destination development for the Rockford Area Convention and Visitor Bureau (RACVB). “We just want everyone to enjoy the holiday to the fullest and get into the spirit. We’re truly grateful to all our partners, sponsors, volunteers, patrons and vendors for their support throughout the past decade and hopefully for years to come.”
The event began as a city tree lighting ceremony and grew each year with downtown decorations, displays, a parade, live music, a huge food court, food trucks and tents, local vendors, fireworks and fun activities. This year will bring new decorations, attractions, live entertainment and vendors.
A 50-foot-tall Blue Spruce city Christmas tree was donated this year by the Davies Family of Rockford. Paul says the tree will look even more spectacular this year with new ornaments, 30,000 multi-colored lights, flashing strobe lights and an elaborate tree topper.
Businesses throughout the downtown River District will offer holiday specials and fun activities as part of Small Business Saturday, which encourages people to support local shop owners.
Volunteering for the event is a fun way to meet new people. Volunteers can attend workshops without prior registration. Among other things, volunteers are needed for the Downtown Decorating Days on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18-19.
Volunteers are people who love the outdoors, are artistic, creative, and/or compassionate, says Julie Huber of RACVB. She has volunteered at Stroll on State since it began, and for the past two years has helped to organize the event.
“It takes all kinds of people, but what they have in common is they’re all willing to give of themselves to help others because they want to give back to their community.”
Thousands of volunteer hours are required to pull off Stroll on State. People can just show up to help or sign up at strollonstate.com. Children 12 to 15 years old need to be accompanied by an adult.
Stroll on State will open with the Inflatable Balloons Highlight Parade at 2 p.m., beginning at South Main and Chestnut streets and moving north to cross the State Street Bridge, ending at Third Street. The lighting of the city Christmas tree will take place at 6 p.m. at the main stage on the corner of Main and Elm streets. Fireworks will be launched from the Jefferson Street bridge at 8:30 p.m.
New events this year include the Blitzen’s Ball, a character party for kids. Princesses and other heroes will roam around the music-filled, four-story glass tower at Iconic Energy (formerly the Rockford Register Star News Tower).
Also new is the Block 5 Party, where people will warm up near fire pits, experience a DJ battle, shop and dine at local establishments and see the popular Fire & Ice show, all in the 500 block of State Street. Fire & Ice features huge blocks of hollowed-out ice that are filled with wood. When lit, they make for “magical” light shows at 5:30, 6:30, and 7:30 p.m.
The Holiday Hot Rods Classic Car Show will feature a collection of classic and vintage cars decked out for the holidays and displayed in the parking lot behind CJ’s Bar and Grill, 115 N. Madison St. Prizes will be awarded for best in class and best decorated vehicles. The deadline to register is Nov. 23 at strollonstate.com.
Other attractions include several Selfie Stations, indoor and outdoor movies, ice skating at BMO Center, and the Dasher Dash 5K, starting at noon at Beattie Park, 100 Park Ave. Registration ends Nov. 24. There’s also S’mores stations, horse and wagon rides, two holiday markets, a toy train display, excerpts from “The Nutcracker,” and Rudolph’s Reindeer Village. At Rockford City Hall, kids can write, decorate and mail letters to Santa.
Suggested on-street and lot parking is noted at strollonstate.com. Free shuttle bus service will continuously run from 1-9 p.m. from YMCA, 200 Y Blvd.; Forest City Church, 1280 S. Alpine Road; and Crusader Community Health, 1200 W. State St. ❚