Christmas emerges with Rockford Tradition Stroll on State


Fireworks and bright Christmas lights illuminate the sky at Stroll on State.

   The smell of pine needles in the cool, crisp winter air, the first snow flake, classic films like “A Christmas Story”, and warm mugs of peppermint hot chocolate encapsulate warm holiday nostalgia in many American homes. 

   Yet none capture the whimsical Christmas spirit like the Rockford tradition of Stroll on State. 

   Now in its sixth year, Stroll on State takes place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Several blocks both east and west of the State Street bridge are closed to traffic, and businesses and other organizations welcome guests with booths and holiday cheer.

   Fifteen people from the Guilford Gainers 4-H club volunteered at a s’mores booth, including Guilford students Robert Dady and Gavin and Sebastián Lerma,

   “I helped with s’mores, it was nice providing something warm in all of that cold weather,” said Sebastián Lerma, junior. “I also walked around, watched the parade, and went to a shop called Symbols to pick up clothes for Winter Formal.” 

   4-H is an organization that teaches youth leadership skills and offers a variety of projects for people to take and receive awards for. The Guilford Gainers attended Stroll on State to raise funds for their club and to recruit new members. A few families approached the booth looking to join. 

   This year was even more festive than previous years because it featured three vibrant tree lightings rather than just one as in prior years. There were also Christmas colored fireworks that illuminated the sky and captured the attention of many Stroll on State guests. 

   Singers and dancers from various backgrounds held live performances at the Silver Bell Stage, Jingle Bell Stage, and Davis Park Stage. Children from Marshall Elementary school were among those who received an opportunity to showcase their talent. The students sung a wide range of holiday songs. Many of which were songs that Rockfordians had grown up with around the holiday season for generations and that appealed to all age groups. Their weeks of practice paid off and they received a standing ovation at the end. 

   Story time with Santa along with his “surprise pop-ups” where he’d show up in random spots to surprise kids also brought out the holiday spirit in Stroll on State children. Many kids are curious about Santa Claus and admire him, so they had a great time asking questions along with interacting with his story. 

   Children were given an opportunity to decorate letters for him and mail them directly to the North Pole.

   Santa wasn’t the only special guest who visited Stroll on State, Mrs. Claus made an appearance during the Holiday parade. Kids and adults were thrilled to see the colorful floats and cheered when Mrs. Claus arrived. 

   During these festivities, a variety of food and beverage booths awaited hundreds of hungry visitors. There was a BBQ truck, a Mexican food truck, Asian food trucks, and desert trucks for those with a sweet tooth. 

   However, one of the most popular venues only served hot chocolate. Several guests enjoyed drinking it while watching the live performances. 

   Guilford high school student Ella Hallstrom had a blast checking out vintage shops, getting food, watching the parade, and listening to live performances.  

   “…I did nearly everything I could,” said Hallstrom. “We stayed for the parade and shopped for goodies. There were lots of vintage clothing sellers, home goods, and other vendors.”

   Some of these shops, particularly jewelry vendors, create their products by hand and pay close attention to detail. Stroll on State gives Rockfordians an opportunity to support local businesses. 

   “This is the first year I’ve gone to Stroll on State, and it honestly made me really excited for Christmas…It was almost like a wake up call that Christmas is on the way. With COVID-19 and school I haven’t really been in the Christmas spirit but seeing all of the decorations, hearing the Christmas music, and seeing everyone gather was a really nice change.” said Hallstrom.

   Those who have never attended Stroll on State and want a powerful start to their holiday season, consider attending next year.