This is Rockford: ‘Our City, Our Story’

“Our City, Our Story” launched its Kickstarter campaign Feb. 4 at Kryptonite in downtown Rockford. (Photo by Doug Schroder)

By Pablo Korona

Saturday, Feb. 4, marked the launch of the Kickstarter campaign for “Our City, Our Story.”

To begin explaining what “Our City, Our Story” is, I first have to tell you my own story.

My name is Pablo Korona, born “Paul Dyer.” Korona represents my Polish heritage, while Pablo is a nickname I was given, which was then adopted.

My father, Arnold Dyer, is a walking success story and an inspiration to me. He went from growing up in a 120-square-foot home alongside four siblings to a home among lawyers and doctors. I chose the launch date of Feb. 4 to honor my father, as it was his birthday.

My mother is a second-generation Polish immigrant. I spoke Polish before I spoke English — I am lucky to be bilingual and to be immersed in this part of my culture.

I was practically raised by my grandparents because both of my parents worked full time; my mother, a technical writer at Woodward Governor, and my father, an electrician at Chrysler. Through hard work, my parents put both of my sisters through college.

Pictured from left: Grandson Vince Chiarelli, son Tony Chiarelli, Vince “The Singing Tailor” Chiarelli, his wife Mary Chiarelli, and Vince the Tailor’s son, Joe Chiarelli, little Vince’s father. (Photo by Doug Schroder)

I found myself drawn to cinematography, and I enrolled in the Mass Communications program at Rock Valley College. I quickly realized I wasn’t there for the degree, but to gather the knowledge needed to start producing. That program is a hidden gem of Rockford.

With nothing but a laptop to edit my work on, no equipment but a single camera purchased through a loan, and the counter of Octane as my office, I started my career as a free-lancer. Fortunately, I started to make a name for myself through my work, and my connections with people in this community started to grow. It’s true that in Rockford, you are one connection away from everyone.

I’m a Rockford guy. From growing up here as the grandson of immigrants through making a career in an industry that was redefining itself, I have been fortunate to work with noteworthy individuals, and enter behind the scenes of many, many places typical Rockford individuals don’t get to see. From exploring throughout the Coronado, to capturing the aerial overview of our city from a helicopter, taking a hovercraft down the Rock River, to being given free rein through the landfill and peering inside Sundstrand’s “Virtual” 787 Dreamliner — my work has afforded me access to these places. And that is just within the past 16 months. You cannot escape defeatist talk in Rockford; however, from seeing what I’ve seen, I find that I always have a response. So, instead of being one voice, I decided to create a chorus. is a website that serves to crowdfund creative projects through raising money from small individuals in small quantities and thereby accumulating them into large amounts. Since the Feb. 4 launch at Kryptonite, more than 100 people contributed various amounts to reach the multi-thousand-dollar initial goal, with more than 20 of them contributing upwards of $100 each.

Before I even get into the videos, I need to illustrate the power of the people who believed in this project. The initial funding goal was reached in less than 48 hours. This was even before “Our City, Our Story” launched its first feature about Vince the Tailor.

I was humbled by the number of friends and strangers alike who truly believed in this project. People from all across the country, from New York to California, were drawn to Rockford by the possibility of what this project could do to this community. I don’t think I will ever forget what that said to me. It was confirmed support and a reaffirmation that the symbolism of this creation is something that WANTS to be seen. I’ll never forget that feeling. It was a call to arms.

The reason we need to tell these stories is because the project approaches the subject matter in a way unlike any other initiative has before. The hidden facts and noteworthy individuals of this community need to be uncovered and have their story told. By noteworthy individuals, I don’t mean “well known.” Noteworthy is being defined here as people who embody the strength and character traits found right here, in this city. The first video represents the legacy one man is leaving behind.

Vince the Tailor was the choice for the launch story because its layered approach is something I hope can be continued.

The feature consists of two parts. Part one is Vince’s son, Tony, who now owns and operates Vince the Tailor shop on North Main. He is a hard-working, charming and amiable store owner. You see him tell his story of how he came to do what he does now. The second part is Vince the Tailor himself, playing music with Tony and his grandson, Vince, on location at the tailor shop.

Vince the Singing Tailor has been a forgotten legend that his grandson helped bring to the forefront while also reviving his grandfather’s record label and resurrecting Rockford College Radio.

At the end of the interview, I had asked Vince if there was anything more he’d like to say. “I’m thankful for you doing this…” he said, and I paused for 30 seconds after he said this. We were still rolling, and what I saw was a man who has lived his life … fully. Up, down, beaten down by missed chances, but also elevated by the vigor of his grandson’s passion that he helped inspire.

We need to tell our story, because we are not miserable. We are strong, courageous, inventive and we should be proud of our past, present and future. This is a broad, sweeping statement I hope will be confirmed by the 26 stories of this project, but I need your help. To curate the collective story of Rockford, and professionally create it with the highest integrity and standards our crafts allow us, we need sustaining help to build an ongoing budget to compensate the involved talents.

This year-long creative undertaking is a collaborative effort of several local individuals such as web developers, editors, photographers, writers and myself. Not only that, it’s a collaborative effort with the voices of our community as well — you can help point out the positive people and stories so they can be included and highlighted.

So, I ask you to contribute $1 to the campaign. You’ll find the link to contribute at the bottom of the page. Thank you.

From the Feb. 15-21, 2012, issue

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