Earth Day Celebration with Dr. Duke on April 22

In 1854, just two years after the city of Rockford was incorporated, its population stood at about 2,000 residents. There was no garbage collection, no sewers, and no public health care institutions. Dairies, slaughterhouses and barbershops operated with no regulations or inspections; and the Rock River was the sole source of public drinking water. Outbreaks of infectious diseases such as malaria and diphtheria were commonplace. In 1853, a cholera epidemic swept the young city; this public health emergency spurred the creation of the Rockford Board of Health in June 1854.

In the past 150 years, the Rockford area has benefited from innumerable advances in sanitation, public health monitoring and regulation, disease prevention and public health treatment. In 1970, the Rockford Health Department became the Winnebago County Health Department, which continues to provide health services for the entire county.

Since its creation in 1922, the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District has worked to maintain a high level of environmental quality in Winnebago County. The forest preserve district and the health department work in partnership to protect public health by protecting environmental quality. In the 21st century, the link between environmental quality and public health is more critical than ever.

Dr. Red Duke will be the featured guest at the ninth annual Earth Day Celebration at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, April 22, at Giovanni’s. Current issues in environmental and public health protection will be highlighted at the event called “Protect Our Home, Protect Our Health,” sponsored by the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District and the Winnebago County Health Department. A cash bar and environmental expo featuring local environmental organizations will precede dinner and Duke’s presentation.

To highlight the many outstanding local organizations working to educate and advocate for the environment, from 3 to 5 p.m., an Environmental Expo will feature 26 local environmental organizations providing exhibits, displays and information. This expo, sponsored by the Four Rivers Environmental Coalition, is open to the public at no charge to raise awareness of this community’s environmental programs and encourage people to get involved.

At 6 p.m., the Atwood Award for outstanding contributions to parks and recreation will be presented, followed by dinner and Dr. Duke’s presentation. Reservations for the dinner, award presentation and keynote speaker are $30 per person, $20 for students. Tables of 10 may be reserved. To make reservations, call Sue Fuller at (815) 720-4213.

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