Sock Monkey Madness Festival March 1-2 at Midway Village Museum

Staff Report

The Sock Monkey Madness Festival, a one-of-a-kind annual event, will return as a celebration of the past by highlighting Rockford’s once-thriving knitting industry and the iconic stuffed sock toy made from Rockford Red Heel Socks. The Sock Monkey continues as part of America’s pop culture.

The event is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, March 1-2, at Midway Village Museum, 6799 Guilford Road, Rockford.
The Sock Monkey Madness Festival was awarded a national 2009 Leadership in History Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History for excellence in educational programming.

Festival visitors will enjoy the following:

  • New this year — Hear a new children’s book written by Barbara Gerry, great-granddaughter of John Nelson, the entrepreneur who invented the knitting machine that manufactured the Red Heel Sock.
  • New this year — Visit Sockford Public Library to receive a library card, your sock monkey and meet a representative from the Rockford Public Library.
  • Use creativity and your talents to construct a sock monkey of your own with the assistance of talent museum staff at the Make-A-Monkey Workshop (additional $20 for materials and group instruction; can take up to 2-1/2 hours; basic sewing skills needed). Reserve a time slot by calling the museum at (815) 397-9112.
  • Adorn ready-made monkeys with free materials to create your own super hero with accessories.
  • Explore the museum’s exhibit featuring the local history of Rockford’s knitting industry and the origin of the sock monkey doll.
  • Enter the annual Ms./Mr. Sockford 2014 Pageant on Sunday (youth and adult categories).
  • Receive a free medical check-up and minor surgery for well-loved sock monkeys at Sockford General Hospital.
  • Purchase affordable food and snacks available from Burritt’s Meat Products.
  • Create make-and-take sock monkey crafts.

The Nelson Knitting Company of Rockford manufactured and sold Rockford Red Heel work socks from 1932 to 1992, which were used during the Great Depression to create a folk art sock monkey stuffed toy. Aware of the sock monkey craze, Nelson Knitting acquired the patent for the sock toy and included the sock monkey doll pattern with each pair of Rockford Red Heel Socks sold starting in the early 1950s.

Purchase tickets for the event online, in advance at the museum store, or the day of the event. For details, call (815) 397-9112.

From the Feb. 26-March 4, 2014 issue

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