Ceremony, open houses to kick off holiday season

Photos by TOM SCOTT

It is easy to recapture the magic of Christmases past when there is a perfect setting for it. Downtown Rockford—with its signature Currier and Ives beauty, friendly atmosphere and twinkling lights and red ribbons—is ready for another holiday season. There are plenty of activities planned for a kinder, more personal way to celebrate this special time of year.

“Rockford is definitely the perfect place for those looking for an old-fashioned holiday atmosphere,” said Jeannie Gregory, executive director of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce. “The merchants do their part by fashioning beautiful window displays and decorating their shops, and the City puts up the holiday banners and spends hours wrapping the trees in strings of lights. It makes it easy to showcase such a beautiful setting with holiday events.”

The season kicks off with the annual Lighting Ceremony, which will take place at Peppler Park on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. The Rockford High School brass ensemble and the Rockford choirs will be performing holiday music for those anxious to start the holiday season. Each year during the lighting ceremony, the city is covered in darkness and after a countdown from 10 the power is turned on to thousands of lights around the downtown area, including the Rockford Dam overlook. Michigan House Rep. Peter MacGregor will be giving a message of peace to honor the start of the special holiday season.

The Heart of Rockford Business Association Open Houses will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 16-17, from 5 p.m. until 8 or 9 p.m., depending on the store. There are discounts, samples, goodies and giveaways, and each participating merchant has their own holiday specials planned. To add to the atmosphere, the sidewalks will be lined with luminaries.

Also on Nov. 16, the Rockford Community Children’s Choir will be performing at 5 p.m. and the Rockford Community Chorus will follow at 6 p.m. Both will be at the Rockford Rotary Pavilion.

The Gingerbread Contest is scheduled from December 2 through 18. There are different divisions, with the contest featuring gingerbread houses—and gingerbread people for the younger set. The entries will be showcased in the downtown stores, and will add another decorative dimension to the holiday tidings. The entries will be judged by a panel made up of local chefs and media personalities, and there will also be a People’s Choice award, where the public will vote for their favorite entry. The three divisions—Open, Age 13-18, and Age 5-12—will enable the entire family to showcase their talents. The 5-12 age group will feature entries of gingerbread people, allowing the little ones to enter their own creation. The first prize for the judged Open division is a $250 gift card for the family to Double JJ Resort. Go to www.rockfordmichamber.com for more information and to download an entry form and rules.

The 68th Annual Santa Parade is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. The jolly man in the red suit will enjoy his welcome to one of his favorite towns and then will visit all the good little boys and girls in the Rotary Pavilion from approximately noon until 2 p.m. There will be children’s activities in the pavilion, along with Christmas caroling and free cookies and milk.

Santa will return to the pavilion on two Wednesdays, Dec. 7 and 14, from 6 to 8 p.m. to hear wish lists, and D&W Fresh Market will be providing hot chocolate and cookies those evenings. Santa will be bringing one of his reindeer on December 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. so that children can check out what a real live reindeer looks like up close. His reindeer will be penned at the Welcome Center on Squires Street, downtown Rockford.

The popular FREE carriage rides will be around for another holiday season. The Chamber is sponsoring Grand Carriages LLC to offer a wonderful trip around the beautiful downtown streets on Thursdays and Fridays, Dec. 8-9 and Dec. 15-16, from 5:30 until 8:30 p.m. The carriages load in front of The Dam Dogs, located on Squires Street, on a first-come first-served basis.

“We are very excited to welcome another holiday season,” Gregory said. “We would like to invite the community to gather together and enjoy what a wonderful place Rockford is. Why battle the crowds, noise and pressure when you can slow down, take a step back in time and discover a Rockford Christmas?”

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