Neighborhood Watch organizations help keep neighbors and neighborhoods safe—and they are also fun. Proof is the 11th annual South Highlands Neighborhood Watch block party, where neighbors took the time to have fun and games and spend time together. Rockford Police partners with neighborhoods in Neighborhood Watch by teaching residents how to keep their neighborhood safer with common-sense efforts, such as noticing strangers and strange vehicle in the area. Rockford Police Chief Dave Jones said it is a goal of his to have every neighborhood have a Watch and the department is always looking for Block Captains. Volunteers for Block Captain have minimal responsibility and the job is not time-consuming. One of the requirements is to offer an annual block party where the fun can be as huge and fantastic as that at South Highlands as pictured, or as low-key as a simple gathering over a grill. For more information on Neighborhood Watch, call the Rockford Police at 866-9557 and ask for Officer Dave Robinson.
The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) in Rockford may be extended another 30 years if the city council approves. The DDA is up for renewal in 2013 but Young said he hopes council will extend the tax dollar capture now. Young said it is possible future laws may prohibit the extension of DDAs and there is no reason to wait. The City created the DDA in 1984. DDAs take a percentage of tax dollars from the district—in this case Rockford’s downtown—and reinvest in that area. In Rockford the DDA has funded banners, light poles, benches, planters and paid for half of the purchase of the former Northland Pontiac property. “It is very effective,” said Young. “The downtown wouldn’t be what it is today without the DDA.” Kent County Administrator Daryl Delabbio said between DDAs, brownfields, smartzones and other tax capture or abatement programs the county loses use of $6 to $7 million dollars annually. He said there are 27 DDAs in Kent County. Delabbio was Rockford’s City Manager when Rockford created their DDA. He said the program has undeniably been good for the town, originally putting in the downtown clocks and other projects. The County cannot opt out of DDAs, but as they expire, the county can enter into new agreements where the County could have some say in tax dollar use, Delabbio explained. An example would be to exempt dollars voted upon for a specific use, such as correctional facilities or school millages. Floyd Havemeijer, Rockford business owner, said he was involved in the creation of Rockford’s DDA. “I was for it, but only if it would be for a limited time and expire,” he said. “It’s stealing from Peter to pay Paul. The schools and the county need the money so they have to raise taxes.” Delabbio said the law allows DDAs to exist forever, once created. Originally a county could opt out of DDAs if they desired, but in 1995 a law passed eliminating that option. “It’s up to them [city council],” Delabbio said. “If they want to extend it, there is nothing we can do about it.”
by CHRISTINE BIGNEY They say that it’s good to try different things. In Stacey Kowalczyk’s case, she didn’t think that would include drunken shrimp and cow’s intestine for dinner. The 2007 graduate of Rockford High School always wanted to study abroad. So when a trip to China presented itself, Kowalczyk jumped at the opportunity. Never mind that she didn’t know the first thing about the language; she was ready to go. Kowalczyk, currently in her Junior year at Grand Valley State University, traveled to China with two Professors and eight other Grand Valley students from May 5 through June 14, 2009. “I took one class on how to speak Chinese, but I’m not very good at it,” Kowalczyk said with a smile. For the most part, Professors Peimin Ni and Geling Shang interpreted the language for them. That came in handy when they were served a dish called Drunken Shrimp. Kowalczyk’s professors explained to them that the chef would literally soak the shrimp in liquor, and serve them alive to the diners. “My professor would prepare the shrimp for us, and then hold them out to us and say, “Here, eat this.” Kowalczyk wasn’t too crazy about the drunken shrimp, but said at a breakfast buffet they were served cow intestine. “It wasn’t that bad, it tasted like noodles. It was grosser to look at, than eating it,” she said. The students did, however, get an opportunity to visit an Italian eatery. “We were pretty psyched to get a fork.” Kowalczyk explained. “We had to get used to chopsticks real fast,” since other eating utensils were nowhere to be found. The group stayed in Shanghai, but took side trips to Beijing, and Hainan, (sometimes called the “Hawaii of China”), which was on the South China Sea. “The scenery was beautiful,” Kowalczyk said. The most memorable site for Kowalczyk was the Great Wall of China. Kowalczyk explained that they were very fortunate to have their professors, who knew their way around China and its sites. “We were able to visit parts of the Great Wall that most tourists don’t get a chance to see. They took us to parts that were crumbling and overgrown with vines,” she said. “It was magnificent.” While the students were […]
Going and growing Mitchell’s Run Thru Rockford enjoyed another amazingly succesful event this year, with 1,800 runners participating and raising $77,000. In its eleventh year, the Run has donated over $600,000 to Project Parent Musucular Dystrophy in Mitchell Peterson’s name. Mitchell, 13, along with family and volunteers, has raised awareness of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
You might as well change Rockford’s name to Festival Town. With a new event taking place this weekend, Rockford has dozens of summertime events to enjoy. On Saturday, August 22, 2009, Reds on the River in Rockford will be sponsoring the First Annual Heirloom Tomato Festival on the banks of the Rogue River as a way to introduce and expand upon the incredible attributes of heirloom tomatoes … and to have a bit of fun in the process. An heirloom tomato is one grown from an heirloom plant, an open-pollinated (non-hybrid) cultivar of tomato. Heirloom tomato cultivars can be found in a wide variety of colors, shapes, flavors and sizes, with all kinds of funny names like Big Rainbow, Cherokee Purple, Black Krim and Green Zebra. They may be lumpy and bumpy, but one thing is for sure – they are packed with flavor. One of the reasons heirloom tomatoes are so popular is they are grown from “old seeds” – in other words, they have not cross bred to produce today’s version of the perfect tomato: bright red, no blemishes, and mass produced. In the process of creating the latter, much of tomato flavor has been bred out of them. Festival activities to include: • Free tomato taste testing of a variety of Heirlooms, compliments of Ingraberg Farms • Judging Best of Show by area media personalities and local Rockford leaders (12 noon) • Salsa contest – attendees are welcome to submit their favorite salsa; winners will receive gift cards to Reds on the River. Salsa judging contest at 1 p.m.—contestants should bring dish to serve eight judges to Reds’ kitchen at 10 am on 8-22. Salsa must be kept properly packaged and labeled with name/phone/email and recipe • Live music • New Holland Brewing beer tent on Reds patio • Food sampling of Reds best heirloom tomato recipes • Children’s activities • Seeds and tomatoes for sale • First annual festival tee shirts for sale Large tents will be set up in the Promenade of Rockford parking lot adjacent to Reds, so rain or shine, the fun festivities will go on. Mark your calendar and plan to spend the day in Rockford. Heart of Rockford Business Association members plan to get in on […]