500 issues of entertainment in review

Five hundred issues and we’re still going strong here at The Rock River Times. Every section of the paper is not only made possible by the individuals who devote every day of the week in and out of office to making their particular department the best it can be, but also by the readers who submit their comments, letters and releases.

I like to think that we might have a little to do with the increase of bands, young artists and poets in the area. Without the constant coverage of the venues and opportunities, how else could the word spread to provide interested parties with the stimulation to get up and display their arts?

With cultural enthusiasts like the writers we’ve had and have, and the great local figures who supply us with events and information, the venues and coverage go hand-in-hand, building momentum and inspiration. “The Voice of the Community” is still plugging away to give readers the inside scoop on local news, national and international topics of concern, and entertainment.

Back in 1993, when TRRT came to be free from The North End Times title, it had something called The Art Beat, which consisted of updates on visual and verbal art happenings in the River District. That year included a great piece by Frank Schier and Christine Swanberg titled “Two Interviews,” which had the editor and author interviewing each other in one sitting about poetry, literature and being a writer in Rockford. There was no official entertainment section; reviews and previews were placed sporadically throughout the paper and were written by (gasp!) Joe Baker, Schier and Chuck Morrison with no regularity.

The entertainment focus slowly expanded through 1994, as more writers came out of the woodwork to review not only art but also music. Charlie Worboys began regular jazz reviews, and on Sept. 8, 1994, the first Arts Calendar with a masthead similar to present day’s was introduced, and covered music and exhibits.

1995 gave way to Theater Review, a section vaguely identified by a small masthead, the arts calendar, and a few movie and art reviews by Janice Perkins, John Rosenbloom and Jason Mosser (professor of English at Rockford College). Susan Johnson, our present copy editor, spent a good deal of space with book reviews, and Tom Leu (previously of “The Musician’s Corner”) began writing as well.

1996’s entertainment section exploded onto the scene with the Metro Monthly Arts & Entertainment Guide & Weekly Update, which only had one calendar for arts and music as opposed to the three divisions we currently hold. The paper welcomed cantankerous Poetry Editor Richard Vargas, music reviewer and then regular columnist Tom Leu, dance reviewer Julian Swain, and occasionally “Chicago” Bill Olson as commentator on local bands.

In 1997, the entertainment section was extremely well established. Denise Guzzardo also began writing a few horoscopes to fill in for Astrologist Mary Stiles while she was sick or on vacation. The paper looked very similar to what it did before all our layout changes in 2003, although the events calendar was still only one big one with arts, music and community events lumped together. Mike Leifheit also became a weekly installment, back when he used to do restaurant reviews.

1998 welcomed movie reviews by Alan Fore, continued dance and theater reviews by Swain and Edith McCauley, and the rest of the pack still submitted at intervals. Our masthead was blue that entire year. Not much changed, other than the increase in page count of entertainment-oriented work.

Between 1999-2000, the Metro Section took form, introducing Jeromy Cartwright as the Metro Section editor, with three different calendars created for arts, music and community. Free-lance writers poured in from all over, with regular columnists covering dining, local bands and theater events as much as possible. Stiles resigned in 2000, and we welcomed astrologer Rebecca.

The appearance of not only the Metro section, but the entire paper became more formal, marking a time when TRRT was already recognized as a serious publication, not just the little weekly with the big headlines and funny graphics.

From 2000 to present, so much change and growth within the paper displayed notable progress in all areas. Entertainment morphed into its own Vibe Entertainment pullout section with regular writers like Leifheit, McCauley, myself, Caroline Rohner, Karen M. Morris and a slew of free-lance submissions. We’ve scored interviews with world-renowned The California Guitar Trio, New Age chart-topping flautist Nicholas Gunn, guitar king John Scofield, Shawn Ryan of FX’s The Shield, skating idol Victor Petrenko, and as many local bands, writers, and artists as possible.

We keep our events calendars updated to the 11th hour of production deadlines to provide area readers with the latest information about upcoming shows, exhibits and entertainment, and every week our phone, mail and e-mail bring us calls and notes of thanks and appreciation.

Not bad for 500 issues. Let’s hope for another 500 at least to show what this paper can really do. And as always, NONE of this progress could be possible without you, the reader.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!