A look back at On the Waterfront 2007

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11890169826887.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘Even the smallest fans find dancing music at Waterfront!‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118901693532067.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘The “Tornado” whirls after dark in the carnival area off Wyman Street.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11890170393289.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘Josh Duffee & His Orchestra entertain on the jazz stage Saturday afternoon.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11890170872415.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘The Missing Links join with Beth Ann Beale for a soulful Saturday.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118901712932067.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘Audience members show their love for festival favorites the Precision Lawn Chair Marching Dads.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118901718412003.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘Mike of the Precision Lawn Chair Marching Dads shows socks and sandals are always in style.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11890172313598.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘Useless Brother performing at the Oasis Stage Saturday.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11890172672415.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘Members of Yid Vicious play their “ska song” for the masses on the Ethnic Stage.‘);

Another Labor Day weekend in Rockford brings with it the On the Waterfront festival. Friday afternoon brought the closing of downtown streets and the inevitable confusion for motorists. The music began as I left work that evening, and I strode to my car as the sounds of the jazz stage faded into the distance.

Saturday afternoon, I made my annual trek to the grounds. I found traffic and parking rather manageable, though I arrived between 3 and 4 p.m. Wristbands at the door—great for the number of drinkers attending the festival and the volunteers manning the tents. The City Stage was replaced by vendors. I missed the stage, but breathed a sigh of relief at the ease with which one could traverse State Street because of this change.

Crossing the river, I couldn’t help but notice the flood’s toll on Waterfront revelry. I’ve never been on the Rock River for the festival, but I’ve always enjoyed watching the Ski Broncs crossing beneath the walkway under the Jefferson Street bridge. Aside from the few changes, Waterfront 2007 offered much the same entertainment as years past. For those of us who grew up with the festival, it was another year of running into people you haven’t seen in a while and the best people-watching the region has to offer.

The goth kids got evicted from their loading dock on Water Street, forced to roam the grounds in their funeral regalia. Teenagers with their designer hair and bug-eye sunglasses paraded about in the latest micro-outfits. I noticed a LOT of kids with their kids. Either I’m getting older or aunts and uncles must have lent a big hand baby-sitting this weekend!

Visitors filled every inch of shade with chairs, and kids obliviously played while bands entertained. Volunteers manned booths, hoping to earn money for whatever organization they represented. Ten years ago, I volunteered for Auburn High School’s steering committee selling soda. I still remember the crowds leaving that night talking about a car accident. I spent the wee hours of the morning that night watching the footage from Paris as they cleaned up the most famous car wreck of the 20th century.

This year, I helped the University of Wisconsin sell beer. It took me right back to my bartending days, without the tips. I served thousands worth of beer at nine tickets each ($4.50). Many people complained at the lack of access to the Budweiser products we sold. Others wondered if we knew who won the game that day (Wisconsin). It was the usual parade of people who just arrived, people who’d been out in the sun all day, and people who’d been out at the beer tents all day. Needless to say, I don’t miss dealing with drunk people for a living.

A lot of people I talk to have said Waterfront is the only thing to do in Rockford all year. I disagree—you can have the same experience with many of the same people and bands at almost any time of year (hey, for a LOT cheaper, too!). You can do it without the hassle of parking or street closures.

That being said, I’d like to close with a suggestion. If Rockford’s really going to get a kayaking course and a riverwalk, let’s give us a permanent downtown festival grounds. There’s plenty of empty buildings and lots that can be converted. Even the building in Davis Park could get put to use. Let vendors take over a floor, or construct a permanent place for bathrooms. I’m sure the Admiral’s Club and other VIP tickets would go at warp speed if they had a club at the top of the festival to go to. Give bands permanent stages so businesses don’t lose parking. We can use the area year-round. Milwaukee’s Meier Festival grounds hold concerts year-round, not just during Summerfest. If this is truly an event for Rockford to be proud of, let’s give it some room! I’ll bet confused drivers all over the area would agree. from the Sept. 5 – Sept. 11, 2007, issue

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