River District names Heart or Rockford winners—part two

Editor’s note: The second part of this two-part series details Heart of Rockford Award winners in the “Festival or Special Event,” “Commercial Renovation,” “Residential Renovation” and “Best of Heart of Rockford” categories. The first of this two-part series, which appeared in the Aug. 16-22, 2006, issue, detailed winners in the “New Business,” “Commitment by a Business” and “Commitment by an Individual” categories.

River District Association hosted the 20th Annual Heart of Rockford Awards & Dinner program Wednesday, Aug. 9, at Rockford Woman’s Club and Rockford Theatre. Following are winners in the “Festival or Special Event,” “Commercial Renovation,” “Residential Renovation” and “Best of Heart of Rockford” categories.

Award recipients

Festival or Special Event: Fourth of July Parade and Fireworks—Joe Marino—Since 1963, Joe Marino has been organizing and raising money to provide Rockford with a spectacular Fourth of July parade and fireworks. This annual family fun-filled event has become Rockford’s second-largest tourist attraction. The event includes the annual Fourth of July parade, beginning at 7 p.m. at 7th Street and Railroad Avenue, traveling to State Street, then west on State to Wyman Street, and terminating at Davis Park, where captivating fireworks are viewed by more than 125,000 spectators. The fireworks are reflected in the Rock River and are carefully synchronized to music, creating a dazzling effect. Joe is the spirit behind this event, and demonstrates a contagious enthusiasm that makes it seem more fun than work to organize this event.

Commercial Renovation: Fuzion Studios—In December 2005, Fuzion Studios completed the renovation of 402 E. State St. Fuzion Studios’ co-owners, Brent and Alison Biehler and Chris Hummel, specifically located downtown to help further initiatives to help make downtown the “place to be.” These young entrepreneurs are very motivated to succeed and also want Rockford’s downtown to succeed. Fuzion Studios is an innovative, full-service hair salon/tattoo business that offers a variety of services related to hair, nails, wax, tattoos and piercing. The commercial renovation included an exterior facelift and an interior remodel. The partners estimate they spent at least $15,000 renovating the interior of the space, not including the personal time and effort they expended as they did much of the work themselves. Examples of major remodeling included: plumbing upgrades, paint, artwork and installation of new workstations for both the hair salon employees and tattoo employees. Fuzion Studios is Rockford’s first full-service salon with tattoos included in the product line mix. They have done a great job of blending their product offerings with a wholesome, fun and lively image.

Residential Renovation: Condos on Market—B & B Development, LLC—Doug Bruno used his 27 years of experience owning, improving and renovating properties in the River District and teamed with co-owner Scott Bliss to purchase and renovate “The Condos on Market” (421-427). Bruno and Bliss purchased an existing building that had once been a turn-of-the-century (1900s) boarding house in the 400 block of Market Street. The building had been condemned by the City of Rockford. By working closely with architects, using high-quality materials and paying close attention to detail, they saved this once-abandoned and deteriorating historical site from a wrecking ball and turned it into residential units, specifically stipulating in their sales agreements that units be owner-occupied to help ensure the residents would have a vested interest in the River District and their neighborhood.

Best of Heart of Rockford: Charlotte’s Web for the Performing Arts—Charlotte’s Web partners with diverse organizations and venues, including area schools, Rockford Public Schools, Rockford Public Library, and Rockford Park District, as a “portable” business, to provide a means to enhance the cultural life of the community through the performing arts. An estimated 10,000 adults and 1,200 youth enjoyed a variety of performances in 2005, which included many free events. Charlotte’s Web has been active in downtown Rockford as a nonprofit performing arts organization since 1989, and, before that, operated as a coffeehouse on First Avenue since 1972. Charlotte’s Web utilized six different River District venues last year. Charlotte’s Web has one paid staff person, but with the aid of more than 1,000 hours of volunteer assistance, provided 54 shows last year.

From the Aug. 23-29, 2006, issue

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