Downtown to be dressed for the holidays Nov. 22-23

Staff Report

Crews of volunteers from Rockford’s Heartland Community Church will unleash the spirit of the holidays as they decorate downtown Rockford with white lights, garland, ribbons, oversized ornaments and dramatic large-scale decorations Friday and Saturday, Nov. 22 and 23.

As we dreamed about how to bring downtown to life during the holidays, we quickly learned that we could easily spend $100,000 or more on purchasing decorations,” said John Groh, president/CEO of the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “That didn’t seem reasonable or doable. So, RACVB looked around the community and found a willing and capable partner in Heartland Community Church and a core group of volunteers who have been a driving force behind Rockford Sharefest’s school transformation projects.”

Josh Peigh, Heartland’s lead pastor, added: “Just like we transformed Jefferson High School and brought hope to high school students, we want to be part of transforming downtown and bring hope and help to the city. We are encouraging Heartlanders to show up and descend on State Street and in doing so infuse downtown with warmth, nostalgia, joy and the very essence of Christmas — hope.”

A core group of nearly 20 volunteers have been working since September to plan, design and build decorations that will be installed throughout downtown, primarily along East and West State streets.

Rockford’s downtown should come alive during the holidays, as is the case in many cities near and far,” said Groh. “Unfortunately, for too many years, downtown Rockford has looked dreary during the holidays rather than alive with light and celebration. Knowing what Heartland and Rockford Sharefest have done for our schools, I can’t wait to see what will happen when they set their sights on downtown for the holidays.”

The downtown decorations will help set the stage for Rockford’s new holiday tradition dubbed Merry & Bright: a downtown holiday. The celebration will last from Nov. 30 through Jan. 31, and takes in the civic and cultural events happening during the time period. Additionally, a new event, Stroll on State, will kick off the holiday season from 4 to 10 p.m., Nov. 30.

From the Nov. 20-26, 2013, issue

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