Rockford, Illinois News

Stroll on State will be ‘reimagined’ in 2020

"Stroll experiences" begin Nov. 28

ROCKFORD — Stroll on State will not be held in its traditional form in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That means the eight annual holiday festival will not be attended by tens of thousands of people on a single day.  Instead, event will consist of several “Stroll experiences” are set to begin Saturday, Nov. 28 in downtown Rockford before extending region-wide with an at-your-leisure, safe line-up of in-person and virtual programs.

“Stroll is one of our community’s most beloved traditions. Since the onset of the pandemic, it has been our fervent hope that we would be able to hold Stroll on State as we’ve known it in prior years, said John Groh, president and CEO of the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “However, of course, that is not possible or responsible this year. So, while we are not able to gather all together at the same time, we can still come together as a community to celebrate the holidays, support local businesses and look with wonder to the future and the possibilities it holds.”

This year’s Stroll experience highlights include expanded decorations downtown Rockford; a new location for the official City of Rockford Christmas Tree at Davis Park; a day-of Merry & Bright Holiday television production on Channel 13 WREX that will feature a live online tree lighting program and conclude with fireworks at multiple locations city-wide; a virtual version of the Fleet Feet Dasher Dash 5k; an extended SantaLand at Rockford City Hall; and six locations around town to drop off letters to Santa.

As Nov. 28, is also Small Business Saturday, RACVB is expanding Stroll activities and programs through Dec. 24 to help raise awareness around the importance of supporting local, and as an avenue for enhanced marketing support of our region’s local shops, restaurants, bars and small businesses of the hospitality and tourism industry.

“I look forward to attending Stroll on State each year with my family and, while this year feels a bit different, it will mean even more as we participate in-person and virtually. It’s something we look forward to each holiday, spending time with our kids laughing and having such a great time together,” said Gina Caruana, senior vice president of Illinois Bank & Trust. “This is exactly why the team at Illinois Bank & Trust is honored to be presenting sponsor, the event is right in line with our core values to care for one another, keep traditions and commitments a top priority, especially during times when they are needed the most.”

Kristen Paul, RACVB director of destination development and director of Stroll on State said: “This year has brought a range of challenges and uncertainty for many of us and has flipped the script on what we considered normal. The holidays are a time to rediscover special moments with our loved ones. It’s time to unify and come together—in some cases while still apart—to kick off the holiday season in a variety of unique and meaningful ways.”

Paul added that since 2013, Stroll on State has been a tradition that gives people a chance to rediscover the growth and development of the region’s core.

“This has always been more than a one-day event—it’s a movement and something our community needs now more than ever,” she said.

The Stroll on State Holiday Special and Davis Park Tree Lighting and Fireworks Celebration will be televised special on Channel 13 WREX at 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 28. A production of RACVB, Heartland Community Church and Channel 13 WREX, the production will feature holiday-themed feature stories and a variety of special guest appearances, culminating with a countdown to the tree lighting and an accompanying fireworks celebration around the region.

“I’m excited by this year’s vision for Stroll on State and the creativity we’re seeing from the RACVB and the community volunteers in supporting the event and these holiday experiences,” Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said. “It’s more important than ever that we remain together, even when we’re physically apart. Stroll and its traditions bring our community together and provide support to local businesses when they need it most.”

More information is at the RACVB website.

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