Annual Rockford holiday season kickoff has old favorites and new attractions

The city Christmas tree is aglow and surrounded by appreciative crowds during a previous Stroll on State event. (Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau photo)

Downtown Rockford will be the most festive place to be on Saturday, Nov. 25 as the 11th annual Stroll on State kicks off the holiday season.

The popular event, which attracts more than 70,000 visitors each year, is sponsored by the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and presented by Illinois Bank & Trust.

Events kick off at noon and continue through the day.

“Every year, the best Holiday Fest in the Midwest happens in downtown Rockford,” said Kristen Paul, RACVB’s vice president of destination development. “Stroll on State brings our community together to create lasting memories, rally behind local businesses and usher in the holiday season.  … Together, we bring merry and bright memories to the season, one joyful moment at a time.”

Stroll on State transforms downtown Rockford into a winter wonderland thanks to many partners, volunteers and sponsors. In total, over 50 companies and organizations will provide financial support through sponsorship of this year’s Stroll on State and Dasher Dash 5K. Their investment allows RACVB to present the event as a gift to the community and visitors.

The day starts with the Dasher Dash 5K at noon, followed by the festival taking place from 2-9 p.m. with new enhancements, attractions, live entertainment, vendors and more for event goers to enjoy.

“Stroll on State is the perfect kick off to the holiday season in Rockford. My family and I have made Stroll on State a tradition,” said Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara. “Stroll represents what is best in Rockford – government, business and community members coming together donating their time, resources and funding to ensure everyone can celebrate. Stroll also happens to fall on Small Business Saturday. I love seeing so many people shopping at locally owned businesses, and I hope that continues throughout the community all season long.”

Stroll on State will feature a new interactive map to help visitors by offering images, descriptions and navigation at the touch of a button. Visit

One of the event’s most popular moments – the lighting of the city Christmas tree – will take place at 6 p.m. at the Main Stage located at Main and Elm streets. This year’s City of Rockford tree is sponsored by the Northwestern Illinois Building Trades. The Main Stage, sponsored by ComEd, will feature music and other entertainment throughout the day.

Sky Lights Fireworks, presented by Pierce Distribution, will once again light up the skies of downtown Rockford. The fireworks will be launched from the Jefferson Street Bridge at 8:30 p.m. Viewers will be able to see the skies burst with color from anywhere in the festival if they can see the Jefferson Street Bridge.

Inflatable will highlight the Stroll on State’s Holiday Parade, sponsored by The Power Connection – IBEW 364 & NECA. It steps off on S. Main Street at Chestnut Street at 2 p.m. and will move north to State Street then east across the State Street Bridge, ending at 3rd Street.

Parade onlookers are encouraged to find a spot along the route beginning at 1 p.m. Hard Rock Rockford is sponsoring eight balloons, including a surprise new balloon built custom for the Stroll parade. HolmstromKennedy PC and Mercyhealth each also are sponsoring a parade balloon.

Other scheduled events include:

  • Blitzen’s Ball, a Character Dance Party for Kids. From princesses to heroes and everything in between this dance party is hosted by Characters 2 Life and will take place inside Stewart Square, 308 W. State St. This event is sponsored by OSF Medical Center.
  • Holiday Hot Rods Classic Car Show. Hosted by Cars & Coffee Rockford see this combination of classic and vintage cars decked out for the holidays in the parking lot behind CJ’s Bar & Grill at 115 N. Madison St. Prizes for best in class as well as best decorated vehicles. The deadline to register is Nov. 22.
  • Frozen in Time Selfie Stations. Stop at any, or better yet all, of the Selfie Stations at Stroll on State. Check out the map for this year’s locations and pose for your perfect shot. This interactive activity is sponsored by General Mills and Quartz. There are two new photo opportunities this year. A North Pole Village experience with a Rudolph balloon, elf houses and more. There will also be a Snow globe photo station sponsored by Comfort 1st Insulation.
  • Indoor and Outdoor Movie Land. See the return of the fan favorite Outdoor Movie Land next to Jimmy Johns on E. State St. or experience the Indoor Movie Land in Stewart Square, sponsored by Xfinity. “The Grinch” will be shown at each location.
  • Ice Skating at BMO Center. Take a break from strolling the grounds and lace up some ice skates at the BMO Center put on by the Rockford Park District and the Rockford IceHogs. Additionally, there will be street hockey provided by the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation and the Rockford IceHogs Community Foundation outside of BMO Center as well as family friendly activities provided by the Rockford Park District outside of Veterans Memorial Hall.
  • Dasher Dash 5k. A holiday-themed 5k run or walk starts and finishes near Beattie Park (near 100 Park Avenue). Participants will travel across the Rock River and decorated East State Street. The race starts at noon. Runners must register by Nov. 24. There will not be registration on the day of the festival. Register at by Nov. 10 to guarantee a race t-shirt. FiberCity, Members Alliance Credit Union, Brad Martin with Dickerson & Nieman, Fleet Feet, Fehr Graham and DataPoint are sponsors.

What is Stroll on State without some classic attractions?

  • . The main event grounds will be along State Street in downtown Rockford bordered by Jefferson, Church, Chestnut and Third Streets. Look for new, upgraded decorations throughout the event.
  • . Santa Claus will walk throughout the festival. He may be at a S’mores station, taking care of his reindeer, on State Street, at the tree lighting ceremony or enjoying a hot chocolate.
  • The popular Hot Chocolate Express will be at two locations – in the Veterans Memorial Hall parking lot and next to the Outdoor Movie Land.Rudolph’s Reindeer Village, sponsored by Mercyhealth, is back and will be at Veterans Memorial Hall.
  • Your favorite group of elves will be back at Rockford City Hall to collect letters and give them to Santa. At Letters to Santa, sponsored by FurstStaffing, kids are encouraged to write and decorate their letters to Santa, and then mail them on site to the North Pole.

Additional Event Favorites:

  • S’mores stations will be set up in three locations. These yummy, gooey snacks are made fresh to order by Stroll grill masters.
  • Horse & Wagon Rides, sponsored by Amazon will return with one location.
  • Two Outdoor Holiday Markets with local retail and food vendors. The markets will be located at Rockford City Market Pavilion (116 N. Madison St.) and Wyman Street District, sponsored by Chicago Blackhawks Foundation (Wyman St., North and South sides of W. State St.).
  • Veterans Memorial Hall, at 211 N Main St, will feature a toy train display on the main level. Rockford Dance Company will offer free performances of “The Nutcracker” all afternoon on the second level.
  • A full listing of events and attractions is available at