Welcome to Rockford Park District’s newest facility, Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens
Oct. 29, the Rockford Park District opens the doors to a brand-new facility, Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, 1354 N. Second St., Rockford. The Park District invites you to join them for a grand opening weekend, to help celebrate this wonderful addition to our community!
About the Conservatory
Situated along the banks of our beautiful Rock River in Sinnissippi Gardens, Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens brings the tropics to the Midwest. The entire facility will be the third-largest conservatory in Illinois with a total of 22,000 square feet and at the highest point will stand 52 feet. A tropical setting includes an 11,000-square-foot plant exhibition area complete with water features, seating areas and sculptures, all in a tropical plant setting.
In early 2004, the Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners selected Sinnissippi Park as the site for a centerpiece project for the District’s 100-year anniversary celebration. Sinnissippi Park was the first land purchased by the newly-formed Rockford Park District in 1909.
Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens is named after the Nicholas family, who in March 2006 announced their donation of $2,150,000 toward the Conservatory project in honor of their parents, William and Ruby Nicholas. Aside from the generous donation from the Nicholas family, nearly 1,600 donors contributed to the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens Public Campaign Project.
“We are thrilled to be opening the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, a tropical paradise for the community to visit and enjoy, but there is more to look forward to,” said Executive Director Tim Dimke. “We are looking ahead to completely restoring the Sinnissippi Lagoon; it will once again be a real showplace and a great source of community pride for future generations of visitors. The men and women of the Rockford Park District thank you for your continued confidence and support throughout this fund-raising campaign and construction season.”
The former greenhouse was constructed in 1924 and was in need of significant repairs. A greenhouse is a building where plants are cultivated. A conservatory is used to display tropical plants and displays, and can be used for social gatherings. The original 15-foot high Greenhouse’s purpose was to grow flowers and plants that could be used throughout the Rockford Park District’s parks and facilities. This purpose changed as the Park District grew, and it became impractical for the Greenhouse plantings to support the entire District. Over the years, the Greenhouse was used to host a variety of seasonal flower shows, but the building was not originally designed for this purpose. The former Greenhouse will be memorialized with a rendering and display incorporated into the new Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens facility.
Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens Summary of Amenities:
• Indoor and outdoor gardens open to the public (year-round)
• Growing Greenhouse
• Meeting room and classroom space (available to rent)
• Tropical destination for small weddings, receptions and catered events
• Children’s educational and play area
• Garden Gate Gift Shop
• Catering kitchen
• Outdoor terrace
Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens fast facts
• Large palms and tropical trees came from nurseries in Homestead, Fla.
• Temperature inside the Conservatory is anywhere between 70 and 105 degrees
• Every plant or tree has a label with the common and Latin name
• Farthest Traveling Object: Aneityum palm from Vanuatu Islands of the Pacific
• Heaviest Tree: Bismark Palm weighing over 6,000 pounds. (3 tons)
• Longest Installation of a Tree: Bismark Palm — 8 hours, three machines, and a dozen workers
About grand opening weekend events and activities
Opening weekend festivities will include harvest crafts and activities for kids, fall-themed food from area vendors, and more! Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens Horticulture and Program staff will be on hand to answer all of your questions.
Opening weekend hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 30. Admission for Rockford Park District/Winnebago County residents is $6 ($8 non-resident), and all children ages 4 and younger get in free!
Grand Opening Weekend contests: “How many pumpkin seeds in the jar?” Winner receives an individual membership. “Name Our Frog!” — Winner receives a free individual membership.
Grand Opening Weekend Presenting Sponsors are First Northern Credit Union and Applebee’s. Grand Opening Weekend Co-sponsors are Lou Bachrodt Auto Mall, Cliffbreakers, Gensler Gardens and WREX-TV.
Don’t miss special guest Ray Villafane, pumpkin carver extraordinaire! He’s been called the “Edward Scissorhands” of pumpkin carving. In 2008, Villafane won the Food Network Pumpkin Carving Contest’s top prize of $10,000. His work has been featured in numerous publications nationally, and he’s appeared on a variety of TV networks. See him in action Saturday and Sunday.
For more information, contact Ruth Miller, Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens facility manager, at (815) 987-1689 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Oct. 26-Nov. 1, 2011, issue
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