Rockford’s Stroll on State attracted record attendance this year

Chronicle Media

An aerial view of part of the Stroll on State parade route on Nov. 24. (Photo by Jack McCarthy / for Chronicle Media).

Stroll on State, Rockford’s annual holiday kickoff, drew a record 87,500 persons to downtown for the Nov. 24 event.

Officials with Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau said the numbers were up 6 percent from 2017.

“We’re grateful the event continues to bolster revitalization efforts and provides a boost to business owners during the holiday season,” said  John Groh, RACVB president/CEO. “Stroll is a community-supported event and happens thanks to the generosity of so many local partners, sponsors, volunteers, and business owners.”

RACVB produced  the sixth annual event—which also occurred on Small Business Saturday—with the support, services and donations of many community partners, volunteers and sponsors.

Organizers evaluated aerial photography, feedback from crowd spotters, shuttle bus ridership, occupied parking stalls, sales/participation numbers for local businesses and participation counts at event attractions throughout the duration of the event to help determine the estimate.

They said key elements contributing to success were a Dasher Dash 5K run/walk, an expanded holiday parade and the enhanced Frosty’s Merry Markets that included new retail and food vendors.

The event covered more than 15 blocks in downtown Rockford, showcased locally owned retail shops and eateries. It also featured family-friendly activities highlighted by the Stroll on State parade, visits with Santa, horse and wagon rides, several live performances and entertainment, drinking hot chocolate and watching the magical lighting of the City of Rockford Christmas Tree.

“I had a 20 percent increase in gross sales over last year’s Stroll,” said Karen Elyea, owner of Minglewood. “This is so important for me because aside from that one day of sales, I have been down a bit. It took me six weeks prior to Stroll to ring up the amount that I rang during that one night,” “This event really helps our bottom line and sets the pace for continued sales growth this holiday season.”

In a post-event survey, Stroll on State and downtown Rockford collectively received favorable feedback. It was reported that 95 percent of people said they had a positive (excellent/50 percent very good/30 percent or good/15 percent) experience at the event.

Other data from the RACVB survey reported:

  • Sales were up with 77 percent of shoppers indicating they spent more than $25 (a 3 percent increase from last year).
  • 97 percent said they are more likely to come back downtown after experiencing Stroll on State (a 2 percent increase over last year).
  • 53 percent of people said that Stroll on State positively changed their perception of downtown Rockford, also noting that they felt there were more places to shop and downtown was cleaner and safer than they perceived.
  • 81 percent of people said that this was not their first time attending Stroll on State.
  • 69 percent of people said that they have made Stroll on State a tradition for three or more years.
  • Respondents who were asked if they would recommend Stroll on State to a friend or colleague generated a 68 Net Promoter Score (NPS). The NPS is used to gauge overall satisfaction with the event. Stroll on State’s NPS is 70 percent higher than the Global NPS benchmark.

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