Wisconsin union protests spark Rockford tourism campaign

Protesters outside the capitol building in Madison, Wis. A skull symbolizes the death of “worker’s rights.” (Photo by Bruce Allen Dangerhill)

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

In the second week of protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol at Madison, the teachers’ unions and supporters appear to be no less passionate in fighting the bill proposed by Gov. Scott Walker, to prohibit public employees the right of collective bargaining in negotiating future union contracts. (Photo by Bruce Allen Dangerhill)

The Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau bolstered its role in the community last week, poking fun at the political drama in Madison, Wis., with a video that also promotes the city as a prime tourism spot.

Amid union-busting protests in Madison, the video “Hideaway in Rockford” takes a humorous inside look at what the Forest City had to offer statehouse Democrats in their search for a safe haven away from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R).

When senators began disappearing from the Madison area almost two weeks ago, early reports said the Democrats were headed to undisclosed locations in Illinois. However, it wasn’t long before several hotels and resorts in Rockford began filling up with neighboring lawmakers. It also paved the way for Convention and Visitors Bureau chief John Groh to create the “Hideaway in Rockford” campaign.

Photo by Bruce Allen Dangerhill

The clip features makeshift interviews with local businesspeople, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) and Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, who flippantly, yet proudly, states he’s been “hiding out” in Rockford for more than four decades.

“We want folks to come to Rockford for their own legislation vacation,” Groh said. “Rockford is full of opportunities for folks to do some collective bargaining at our locally-owned stores and shops.”

While most know Rockford is the home of favorite sons Cheap Trick, the video makes those outside of town aware of the city’s historical sites including the Coronado Theatre and Burpee Museum. The video also lets travelers know the Rockford MetroCentre houses the Rockford IceHogs (the Chicago Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate) and that several noted restaurants and bars fill the city.

Photo by Bruce Allen Dangerhill

The “Hideaway in Rockford” video can be found at the Convention and Visitors Bureau website, gorockford.com. The piece has been featured on a number of national news programs and is becoming a hit on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

From the March 2-8, 2011, issue

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