By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD – The words “unseasonably” and “beautiful” were used throughout February as an early spring seemed to be on the horizon. Then came a spotty April and a torrential beginning to the current month, with heavy rains souring many outdoor plans.
That seems to be behind us this week, as greater Rockford is looking at a 10-day forecast indicative of a traditional mid-May outlook. It was sunny and near 85 Tuesday. Isolated thunderstorms are on tap Wednesday with a high of 84 in the stateline, good enough to be called summer by most standards.
For Rhonda Henry of Loves Park, the last couple of weekends gave her and husband Brad an opportunity to put some miles on their Harleys, their favorite past time when not listening to the smooth sounds of local blues bands.
“We rode on Mother’s Day,” she said. “It was a beautiful ride from New Milford back up to Loves Park.”
The Henrys are no stranger to two-wheel tour. Last year, they logged 1,000 miles during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally alone. Yet most of their time is spent touring the Rockford area these days. An avid bike racer and noted mechanic, Brad can also be found at the Bryon Dragway as his souped-up, nitro-fueled machines tame the quarter-mile track.
“Sometimes we pack up and camp all weekend,” Rhonda said. “If you keep winning, you stay.”
Parks and river banks filled
The banks of the Rock River are also a place for victory for local anglers as catfish are beginning to move. Channel cats are nibbling on cut bait and nightcrawlers, while the darkness of night remains the time to slay trophy flatheads.
Tim Richardson of Rockford rarely takes a break from the river banks, and saw a brief slowdown in the catch when the water rose from recent rain. But he expects the action to improve.
“The warmer the weather, the better,” he said. “Catfish come out when it’s warmer and tend to come more to the surface That’s just been my experience.”
And for Richardson, it has been worth the wait. Even during winter, if there’s open water, he will cast a line. Between one in mid-February and a day like today, he’ll chose May 17.
High school baseball and softball seasons are winding down, which means summer leagues are just getting underway. While school schedules are often played in the cold and rain, it’s a much different offering when June approaches.
It is when the diamonds of Roy Gayle Pony Baseball, Rockford Park District, Boys & Girls Club and community centers fill with chatter and a concession-stand aroma that dances in air under lights that remain on well past dark.
Docks, market, basketball
A high of 78 is expected Thursday as saxophonist Harlan Jefferson helps Prairie Street Brewing Company kick off this year’s Dinner on the Dock along the Rock River. Music starts at 6 p.m. Although there’s rain in forecast Friday, City Market opens downtown for the 2017 season. The market is open from 3:30-8:30 p.m.
Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, along with the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, will team up for the first-ever Fred VanVleet Summer Camp and Fan Fest on June 23-25 at the UW Health Sports Factory.
“Giving back to the community is important to me,” the former Auburn High School and Wichita State star said. “I hope through the FVV Summer Camp that we can impart some of the wisdom I have gained to the youth in the Rockford region. “I’m looking forward to having a lot of fun at this event and sharing some great moments with the community.”
VanVleet is the RACVB’s first-ever sports ambassador.
The camp will begin Friday, June 23, with Fan Fest. Camp runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, June 24-25, for boys and girls, kindergarten through high school. Participants can sign up for one- or two-day sessions. Attendees will learn skills, drills and compete in contests.
Registration includes a T-shirt, goodie bag, boxed lunch and free admission to the Fan Fest. Registration is $50 for one day and $90 for two days. Lunch is provided by Owly Oop Sports Pub.