History and description of River District

History and description of River District


East State Midway Association was formed to serve businesses on the east side of the downtown area in 1977. The name changed to River East in 1989 and continued to serve businesses in the same area. A metamorphosis occurred in 1998 with another name change, extension of boundaries, and creation of a new mission. The name “River District” (and the logo) was chosen through a contest open to the public. This new organization would embrace the potential of the river along with east and west sides of the downtown. It would also invite both businesses and residents to become members and participate in the efforts to promote and revitalize Rockford’s urban core.

The organization works to plan, promote, and preserve the District’s assets and heritage. The beautiful Rock River is a vital component of Rockford’s River District, drawing resident and visitor boaters from around the region. River District offers the area’s finest collection of arts, entertainment, cultural activities, unique dining and shopping experiences, and luxurious loft apartments. The District is also home to city, county and federal government, county court system, and numerous law offices, architectural firms and many types of professional businesses. Another unique asset of the River District is its rich architectural and historical legacy.

Marketing efforts have included an annual Architectural Pride Tour, Groove Walk Festival, Pub Crawl, and Halloween Masquerade Ball. The Association also works with numerous organizations such as On The Waterfront, Inc., Rockford Area Arts Council, and Rockford Art Museum’s Young @ Art to plan and promote other River District events. The Association also works with retail, restaurant, entertainment and cultural organizations to develop collaborative promotions. Free Historical Walk-Abouts on the third Saturday of the month, April-October, promote the District’s assets as well.

River District’s Web site provides information about the myriad of opportunities from entertainment and recreation to business development and residential living. It also provides detailed information on our many restaurants, retailers, arts and cultural activities, historical landmarks, and dozens of downtown summer festivals.

With the support of the entire Rockford community, the organization has experienced tremendous growth the last several years. We welcome and appreciate your patronage to the District. Please contact River District Executive Director Kim Wheeler, 815/964-6221, for questions or comments. Also see


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