What’s up with the big green footprints?

Sue Arend (R) REF Administrator and Rockford High School senior Shelby Jacobs (L) announce the “Selling of the Sod” event.  Jacobs is currently serving as a RHS Co-operative Intern with the REF under the mentorship of Arend.

Sue Arend (R) REF Administrator and Rockford High School senior Shelby Jacobs (L) announce the “Selling of the Sod” event. Jacobs is currently serving as a RHS Co-operative Intern with the REF under the mentorship of Arend.

Buy your own piece of Ted sod

by Cliff and Nancy Hill

It’s spring and miraculously the downtown sidewalks have sprouted pairs of big green footprints.  What’s up with the feet? 

Turns out that the Rockford Education Foundation (REF) in a joint venture with the Rockford’s Football and Band Boosters had the feet placed on sidewalks and storefronts to promote their upcoming “Tiptoe Through The Ted – Selling the Sod” event. 

Weather permitting, the undertaking of the removal of the grass turf at the Rockford High School Football Stadium (aka ‘The Ted’) will begin on May 4.  During the weeks following, the grass surface will be replaced with one of the latest generations of synthetic turf. 

This taking of ‘The Ted’ to a new level provides the REF and the Boosters a great new opportunity to raise money in support of their good works. 

Rain or shine, on Saturday, May 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., everyone will be afforded the opportunity to buy a piece of Rockford history.  During the free midday event square yards (18 inches by 72 inches) of the removed sod will be available for $10 per yard.  Small potted versions will also be available.  By buying a chunk of the sod you can create your own little patch of ‘The Ted’ in your yard.  Imagine the possibilities!  Whether purchasing sod or not, everyone is invited to four hours of live music and games.  Picnic on the field, if you like.  There will be something for everyone.  

The Sports Boosters will have food concessions stands.  The High School Band will make an appearance.  There will be stage performances by local students, some of who are REF grant recipients.  Zumba and Parisi demonstrations are scheduled.  Other possibilities include; face painting, relay races, and football passing contests.  Many more fun activities are planned, too many to name.  In case of rain, the event will be moved inside to the Rockford High School gymnasium. 

Aside from the sod sale the purpose of the event is to celebrate the role ‘The Ted’ has played in the lives of all in our Rockford community.

The installation of artificial turf was made possible as a result of school district voters saying “yes” to a mileage renewal during last May’s School Board election.  “The mileage replaced funds scheduled to expire and resulted in a zero net increase to taxpayers,” said Rockford School Superintendent Michael Shibler, at the time.  Shibler had championed the proposal prior to the election saying, “The installation of artificial turf on the varsity football field would allow more and varied activities to take place.”

“We are community recreation in Rockford,” Shibler said, adding, “The installation of artificial turf on the varsity football field would allow opportunities for hundreds more kids.” 

A San Francisco Parks and Recreation study in 2005 supported Shibler’s position in concluding the following:

  • Artificial turf playing fields are long-term cost effective with a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years. They recover, on average, their initial high installation costs in 7 to 10 years.
  • Synthetic fields virtually double the number of hours a field can be used.
  • Artificial turf fields are available for use in all manner of inclement weather, unlike natural fields.
  • New generation synthetic fields significantly reduce operating costs because they require much less labor and materials to maintain.
  • Unlike their natural turf counterparts, they do not require the imposition of a time limit on the amount of play or use allowed in order to protect the quality of the field.
  • New generation synthetic fields have a superior quality-playing surface.  The flatness and uniformity of the new synthetic fields produces venues that provide better and safer recreational opportunities for all varieties of ground sports.
  • Artificial turf will open the venue to more and newer usage resulting in increased revenue (from ticket fees and concessions at athletic events or band competitions, to name two of many possibilities).

So don’t fail to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event on Saturday, May 2, by following the footprints to the ‘The Ted.’

For more information call the REF at (616) 863-6317.

Now, the rest of the story

For the uninitiated who have always wondered, how did ‘The Ted’ come by its name – here’s the rest of the story as told to us by Ted’s son, Dave Carlson.

When an extended family Carlson emigrated from Sweden in the late 1800′s, half settled in Sister Bay, Dorr County, Wisconsin and the other half settled in the Rockford vicinity.  During the ensuing years, the Rockford Carlson’s extolled the virtues of Rockford’s Schools to their relatives across the Lake.  (Even then Rockford excelled in educating its children.)  For one thing, Sister Bay did not have a high school and Rockford did. 

So it came to pass that one of the Dorr County Carlson family’s moved to Rockford in 1910 so the oldest sibling of the family’s children could attend high school.  The youngest sibling was a two-year old boy named Ted.  If ever a move was meant to be, it was more so for Ted Carlson.   

Ted grew up loving all things Rockford.  He graduated from Rockford High School in 1927 and briefly spent time at Michigan State University.  Impatient to strike out on his own, he entered the working world, married and had a family and eventually owned a factory in Wixom, Michigan that manufactured travel trailer water heaters.  Even though the plant was on the other side of the state, Ted commuted back and forth from the plant in Wixom to his home and family in Rockford.

Good financial fortune smiled on Ted and at the early age of 55 he was able to sell the plant and retire from the working world to devote the rest of his life to his beloved Rockford.  It was a unique time in a workingman’s town where everyone knew you and you knew everyone. Never having forgotten his own years at Rockford High School, Ted devoted the remaining 28 years of his life immersed in all things athletic at Rockford High School.  He may well have been Rockford’s first “Super Fan.”

From attending every practice and sporting event possible, to throwing out the first pitch at each season’s first baseball game, to being the first person elected to the Rockford Hall of Fame, Ted Carlson became affectionately known as “Mr. Rockford.” 

Son Dave Carlson, owner of Woodland Travel Center on Plainfield, tells us, “My father was more well known by the athletes and the kids in the stands than the High School Principal himself.  He could be seen always proudly wearing the Varsity Jacket that had been embroidered “Coach Carlson” and presented by his close friend Harv DeGood.”

Ted passed away at age 83 in 1991.  Through his adult years he had also found the time to serve 20 years as a Rockford School Board Member.

 In 1992 the current Rockford High School and its adjacent stadium were completed.  It was an easy decision for the then School Board to honor the memory of Ted by naming the new stadium the ‘Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium.’ In doing so they recognized a man who had been a fixture, a part of the fabric of the community.  According to son Dave, it is the only thing in the Rockford School System to be named after a person.  Thenceforth it has come to be known by countless athletes and students simply as ‘The Ted.’

As our interview with Dave Carlson ended, he told us of the speech his father made after being elected to the Rockford Hall of Fame.  Quoting from that speech Ted said, “I love Rockford.  I always have.  I always will.” 

At the dedication of the Rockford High School Stadium, Dave added this footnote to his father’s speech, “It was obvious Rockford loved Ted, too.”

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