This year’s German Valley Days, July 14-16 at Ben Miller Park on Church Street, features more music and historical tours as it celebrates the festival’s 50th year and the 175th anniversary of the town’s settlement.
“German Valley Days is a very family-oriented festival, so we try to do things the entire family will enjoy and give everyone a feeling of togetherness,” says Donna Smith of the festival’s planning committee.
New this year are historical tours that depart at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. More tours will be added, if needed, Smith says.
The Play4Fun band, a multi-genre dance band, performs at 6 p.m. Friday, and Lynx of Rockford plays legendary favorites at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Smith says German Valley has two “claims to fame.” It was the first settlement in America to come out of Ostfriesland, Germany.
“In 1847, a party of eight immigrants were on a ship headed to St. Louis, when someone suggested they head for northwest Illinois because the climate and farmland was similar to where they were coming from,” Smith says.
Secondly, German Valley is known for Pleasant Prairie Academy, which was founded to provide training for German-speaking ministers. Through the years, the academy turned into a college prep school, and then a private high school of the Silver Creek Reformed Church, which closed in 1958, she says.
When the academy closed, the bank bought the property and donated it to the village for a park. German Valley Days began as a fundraiser to develop the park, and then was taken over by the local Lions Club. Today, the money raised goes into the next year’s festival, which traditionally includes a 5K run, car show, pig scramble, basketball tournament, children’s activities, pageants, fireworks, food, drinks, snacks, a parade and more.
Today, the park includes shelters, a basketball court, softball diamond, and a playground that was updated just a few years ago, Smith says.
German Valley is located in southeast Stephenson County, 25 miles west of Rockford, 10 miles east of Freeport, and 100 miles west of Chicago.
For a complete schedule of events, go to germanvalleydays.com. ❚