Hanging Out in Rockford: Block 5 living up to its full potential

Finalizing the details of the Aug. 15 Block 5 party

“Hey, Mike,

“The headlining bands are Emily Hurd, Illinois Central and Radio Stars (in that order from 8 p.m.-midnight.)
The daytime bands are ______ at noon, Emily Waller at 1 p.m., Dave Jonsson at 2 p.m., Jim Hagerty at 3 p.m., Doug Fleming and Shuckama at 4 p.m., and Andrew Jacob Home at 5 p.m. Unique Entertainment Dance Troupe will open the evening at 7:45 p.m.


So goes my e-mail from Molly Fleming. Obviously, there is still a little work to be done. We are getting ready for the return of Block 5 as a major Rockford downtown block party—a party that will reflect the new Block 5, a revitalized Block 5 that will prove to be one of the best entertainment areas of the city in the coming months.

I have been here at the Rose for 20 years. In that time, we in the Block have had our ups and downs, but I have not been so excited about the progress in our Block for a long time. For the very first time in all of these years, we have management in each of the restaurant and bar venues on this block that is driven—driven to work together and make this Block as exciting as it can be. For the very first time, I think Block 5 is going to live up to its potential, its full potential.

In past years, when we ran this party, sometimes the support was good but not great. This year, everyone has participated. Everyone has come to the meetings. That, in itself, is exciting. But even more exciting is the way all the businesses have participated in the work needed to put this event together. I cannot remember such excitement since Karen (now alderperson) Elyea ran the first year of two years she was in charge of the party.

If we could only find our electrical distribution board, but that is a nuts and bolts thing we will solve. We have been having meetings, endless meetings. We are having another meeting next Thursday. Will we be able to pull it off without a hitch? Frank Calvanese (Deli Italia) thinks so. Frank says he works well under pressure. He does, I’ve known him a long time, more than 28 years. (When I came back from New York, I used to live a block away from Little Italy and walk there to eat the tortellini, while Iggy sang in Italian at the bar).

We will be open during the day from noon to 6 p.m. Then, we will close and clear the area before the evening bands begin to play, re-opening at 7:30 p.m. Patrons will be able to purchase alcoholic beverages in each of the participating establishments and carry them out into the closed-off East State Street area between Second and Third or Kishwaukee streets. There will be a $5 admission charge. Patrons wishing to have dinner at one of the participating restaurants will not have to pay the admission.

Participating in this event are the Irish Rose, Brio, The Office, Cru, Deli Italia and The Red Lion. The event itself will be a benefit for the Block 5 Association and River District. Kim Wheeler Johnsen of River District has been a main force in bringing everyone together. Medicine Man Studios, and their offshoot business, Privileges, have kindly consented to allow us to put the stage on the sidewalk in front of their building. It should all contribute to a great time. Underage people will be allowed in using a system of bracelets supplied by Hayes Beverages, the local Miller distributor.

All these bands for only $5! What a deal! With the weather the way it has been, this should be the ideal summer night out event. Come on down to Block 5 Saturday night, Aug. 15.

Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

from the July 29-August 4, 2009, issue

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