Rockford’s Merry & Bright holiday season kicked off with another record-breaking year as crowds gathered together on November 26 for Stroll on State, presented by Illinois Bank & Trust. The Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau produces the annual event, now in its fourth year.
Each year the event has grown in both size and scope, with this year’s event attendance estimated at 75,000 visitors. Aerial photography, feedback from crowd spotters, shuttle bus ridership and sales/participation numbers for local businesses and attractions throughout the duration of the event help determine the number.
“As we wrap up another record-breaking Stroll on State, our team at RACVB is incredibly inspired by this community and the hard work that so many put in to create this awe-inspiring night. The common theme I’ve been hearing is that Stroll instills a great sense of love for and pride in our community as well as optimism for the future,” said John Groh, RACVB president/CEO. “Stroll is more than just an event – it’s a feeling, it’s a memorable moment, it’s a tradition that our community shares together.”
The event spans more than 15 blocks in downtown Rockford, showcasing locally owned retail shops and eateries. It also features an abundance of family-friendly activities highlighted by Randy Finch and the Ice Brigades’ interactive ice sculpting performances, visits with Santa, horse and wagon rides, ice skating, drinking hot chocolate and watching the magical tree lighting of the City of Rockford Christmas Tree.
Stroll on State by the Numbers
- 10,000 people rode on the horse-drawn wagon rides (an 11 percent increase over last year).
- 7,000 guests utilized park and ride shuttles to/from the event (a 40 percent increase over last year).
- 3,500 children visited Santa Claus (a 16 percent increase over last year) and 500 letters were written to him noting their wishes for Christmas.
- 103 performers entertained throughout the night on the Merry & Bright stage.
- 30,000 lights adorn Rockford’s Christmas tree.
- 1,260 ice skaters experienced the indoor ice skating rink at the Rockford Park District’s Riverview Ice House (a 20 percent increase over last year).
- 5,000 cups of hot chocolate were enjoyed at the Hot Chocolate Express station and 2,350 S’Mores were eaten (an 80 percent increase over last year).
- 1,400 guests attended The Studio’s performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The Nordlof Center.
What downtown businesses say about Stroll
- “Magic was in the air as the Christmas spirit spread all over Downtown Rockford. Stroll was a huge success, leaving Rockfordians excited to enjoy all of the other awesome shops our city has to offer,” said Jennifer Lancaster, owner of Bath and Body Fusion. “This event is the perfect advertisement for small local businesses downtown, giving us new customers throughout the entire year that wouldn’t have known about us if it wasn’t for Stroll on State.”
- “It’s incredible to see the crowds of people supporting local businesses during Stroll on State each year. We’ve participated since year one and have learned how to make the shopping experience that much greater at our bakery,” said Pauline Happach, owner of Bella Luna Bakery. “With a more stream-lined approach our sales were up 60 percent during the event this year. It’s amazing to get to do what you love and see the crowds of people really embrace it too.”
In a post-event survey, Stroll on State and downtown Rockford have collectively received favorable feedback, with 98 percent of people saying they had a positive experience at the event.
The Merry & Bright season continues in Rockford through the end of January with many more community events and programs. Check out gorockford.com/