Introduction to Rockford, Illinois
Rockford is a city located in northern Illinois about 85 miles northwest of Chicago. Sitting on the banks of the Rock River, Rockford serves as the county seat of Winnebago County and is one of the state's largest cities. Located at the intersection of Interstates I-39, I-90, and U.S. Route 20, Rockford is serviced by Chicago/Rockford International Airport (formerly known as the Greater Rockford Airport). The city is home to Rockford College, as well as Judson College, Rock Valley College, and a satellite campus of Northern Illinois University. Nicknamed the Forest City, Rockford has been long known for its abundance of elm trees.
Founded in 1834 by Germanicus Kent, Rockford was originally known as the village of Midway due to its location midway between Chicago and Kent's hometown of Galena. In 1837 the community's name was officially changed to Rock Ford and in 1852 Rockford was incorporated as a city. The arrival of the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad was an early catalyst for the region's economic growth, which continued for several decades. By the turn of the century, Rockford was recognized as a significant industrial and manufacturing center and home to many nationally known manufacturers. Although the city's industry took a major hit during the decades following World War II, the economy in recent years has rebounded, and today features an abundance of professional and business services, making the city a thriving commercial center as well as a cultural and entertainment hub.
Rockford Art, Culture and Entertainment
Rockford is home to several museums and performing arts venues and its surrounding area is known as an outdoor destination. The Burpee Museum of Natural History chronicles animals, rocks and minerals, fossils, and native peoples with exhibits in a facility connected to Riverfront Museum Park. The Discovery Center Museum features a planetarium and both permanent and traveling exhibits. The Erlander Home Museum is the cultural centerpiece of the city's Swedish-ancestry community, and the Ethnic Heritage Museum relates the history of the six ethnic groups that settled in early Rockford (Irish, Italians, African-Americans, Polish, Lithuanians, and Hispanics). The Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center presents an annual concert series by local and world-renowned artists, and the New American Theater is a regional professional theater which offers an annual season of productions including a Christmas performance. The Rock River, which runs through the heart of Rockford, provides a continuous source of recreation for the Rockford community, including a bike path spanning several miles and water sports such as boating, canoeing, fishing and water skiing. "On the Waterfront" is the name of Illinois' largest music festival. This nationally acclaimed event encompasses over 30 blocks of downtown Rockford each Labor Day weekend, bringing together food, fun, and music to satisfy everyone's tastes.
Sports fans have many choices in Rockford. The Rockford Riverhawks are an independent minor league baseball team competing in the Frontier League. The Riverhawks carry the banner for the city's storied baseball history, which includes a team (the Forest Citys) established soon after the Civil War and the Rockford Peaches, a 1940s team playing in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Other former pro baseball franchises playing in Rockford include the Expos, Royals, Cubbies, and Reds. Hockey fans can root for the Rockford Icehogs, a member of the United Hockey League, who play at the city's MetroCentre. Also playing at the MetroCentre are the Rock River Raptors, a professional indoor football team playing in the United Indoor Football (UIF) league. Ironically, Rockford was the site of the first-ever Arena Football game when the Rockford Metros played a "playtest game" in 1986. Another Rockford present-day sports team is the Rockford Thunder, an indoor soccer team, which belongs to the American Indoor Soccer League (AISL).