Elvis impersonator

Memories of early Start of Summer

June 11, 2009 // 0 Comments

by Tom Lindquist The Start of Summer celebration is in its 41st year this year and is undeniably one of the most popular downtown annual events. It was not always the power-packed event we will see this weekend.  In the 1950s Rockford’s had a row of booths and about four rides on Squire Street and in the parking lot behind what was then the Rockford Hotel,  Blakeslee heating and Grover garage. My favorite was the fish stream with the plastic fish with numbers on the bottom. My dad Lester (Jiggs) took me for my first Ferris wheel ride there. We got stuck up on top for a few minutes I always remember how amazing Rockford looked from up there and you could see all of downtown and the top of the Tannery. I remember it was the late 1950s and I was only six or seven years old. It was a small celebration, but a lot of fun. When I was in High School we heard there was going to be a sesquicentennial celebration (this was late 60s). There was to be a carnival, food and a battle of the bands in the old Fire Station (where the west end of the bowling alley is now). That was the most exciting part to people in my age group. The carnival was up and down Courtland Street and once again behind the hotel in that parking lot. Homer Burch wrote the book about Rockford called From Sawmill to City and the Rockford Register ran excerpts from it. You could buy a copy at either Langridges or Patricks drugstore (now it is available at the Historical Society museum). This created a lot of interest in the town and its history-it was nice timing for celebrating the town’s birthday. I give credit to people like then Police Chiefs James West and Bruce Finch, Mayor Clarence Blakeslee, City Manager John Van Prooyan-they all did great in those early days of Start of Summer Celebration. Our almost all-volunteer fire deptment, the Rockford police and Jaycees  all worked hard to make it special. It was so successful they had a sesquicentennial plus one the next year. Then they had just a celebration for next few years. The rides were up and […]