One of the best parts of being in Rockford for the holiday season is the Stroll on State festival. This year they are celebrating their 11th year of bringing holiday cheer to the Stateline!
Stroll on State is held the weekend after Thanksgiving each year in downtown Rockford, Illinois. It is a fun way to celebrate the city, its people, and the upcoming holiday season with your family and friends.
Stroll on State isn’t just a celebration of all things festive, it’s also an event to support our local small businesses downtown. With the recent closings and relocation of several downtown Rockford businesses, it’s more important than ever to shop local! Rockford businesses are ready to welcome you into their stores for Small Business Saturday which falls on the same day as Stroll on State.
While you’re attending Stroll on State, you can enjoy food and drinks from local vendors, listen to live holiday music, go ice skating, watch the tree lighting and fireworks, take a wagon ride, dance with princesses, see Santa Claus, and more. Head downtown to experience the magic of the holidays this year!
This is Stroll on State’s 11th year. It’s hard to believe that this event has been happening for over a decade already! The event gets bigger and better each year. Stroll on State is always FREE to attend!
Stroll on State is Saturday, November 25, 2023 from 2 pm – 9 pm
New Additions to Stroll on State in 2023
Stroll on State grows every year and gets a little bit more festive and magical. Some of the exciting additions and changes to this year’s festivities include:
- Fake Snow Everywhere – There will be fake snow (hypoallergic soap foam) brought to the festival by Comfort 1st Insulation at four different snow stations throughout the grounds of the event (State and 1st Street, State and Main, in front of Veteran’s Memorial Hall, and Elm and Main Street near the Christmas tree). There will be nine machines pumping out snow for all to enjoy!
- New entrance at West State Street – It will be even easier for families to enter the event from the West side of Rockford with a new entrance on Winnebago and West State Street.
- New Snow Globe Photo spot – Be sure to stop at the larger-than-life 26′ snow globe for a photo opp in front of Veterans Hall on N. Main! There will be balloons inside the snow globe and decorations outside of it.
- Ugly Sweater-Themed Shirt for the Dasher Dash – This year’s Dasher Dash shirt is ugly sweater-themed and can’t be missed!
- New Rockford-themed parade balloon – We can’t wait to see what the new Rockford-themed balloon will be! What are your guesses?
Stroll on State 2023 Timeline
Stroll on State is a whole day packed with fun downtown! Here’s the Stroll on State 2023 schedule.
- 12 pm – Dasher Dash 5K
- 2 pm – Stroll on State Parade
- 6 pm – Tree lighting at Main and Elm St.
- 8:30 pm – Fireworks launched from Jefferson Street Bridge
Dasher Dash 5K Run / Walk
The day starts off with the Dasher Dash, a 5K run through historic downtown Rockford at 12 pm. The course will cover new ground this year with runners starting and ending at Beattie Park on N. Main and traveling in a loop downtown to see the decorations. Participants will receive a medal and shirt and prizes will be awarded to the top male, female, and age group finishers. The race costs $40 to enter for adults and $25 for kids 12 and under. Registration closes on November 24th, but be sure to register before November 7th to guarantee your shirt size. Register here.
Stroll on State Parade
The Stroll on State parade starts at 2 pm from South Main Street and Chestnut Street. It will move north to State Street and east across the State Street bridge, ending at 3rd Street. If you’d like to watch the parade, you are encouraged to find a spot around 1 pm. The parade will feature nine large holiday-themed character balloons, festive floats, live music, and the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Stroll on State Attractions and Activities
There are a ton of things happening from 2 pm – 9 pm downtown! This includes wagon rides, live music, ice skating, smores, shopping and more. All of the activities are free unless noted otherwise.
- Tree lighting ceremony – The ceremonies include a visit from Santa, live music, and the tree lighting at 6 pm at the Main Stage at Main St. and Elm St.
- Fireworks will be launched from the Jefferson Street bridge at 8:30 pm. People will be able to see the fireworks from anywhere the bridge is visible.
- Santa visits – Santa will be walking around the event talking to kids, taking care of his reindeer, and getting a hot chocolate to warm up.
- Horse and wagon rides will happen throughout the event. In past years, they make a continuous loop with pick up and drop off at the corner of Wyman and Elm.
- Letters to Santa can be written and dropped off in the specials Letters to Santa mailbox at City Hall.
- Fire and Ice – This new event will take place on the corner of State and 2nd as well as State and Wyman. Towers will be lit at 5:30 pm, 6:30 pm, and 7:30 pm.
- Ice skating will take place at the BMO Center on the IceHogs’ home rink! Ice skates are available free of charge.
- Snow Much Fun Kids’ Play Area – Kids can run, jump, and play with the Rockford Park District in the lot outside of the Nordlof Center on N. Main. There will also be a blow-up rink for street hockey.
- Blitzen’s Ball will take place in Stewart Square on the corner of State and Main with appearances from Characters2Life.
- Live music and performances will take place on many stages throughout the event. Santa will also be making appearances on stage throughout the event. Performances run from 3 pm – 9 pm.
- Indoor and outdoor movies – Families can watch a movie outdoors in the lot next to Jimmy Johns or experience the new indoor movie land in Stewart Square. The Grinch will be shown at both locations.
- Holiday Hot Rods Classic Car Show – Check out vintage and classic cars decked out for the holidays in the parking lot behind CJ’s (115 N. Madison). Prizes will be awarded for best-in-class and best-decorated vehicles.
- Holiday markets with retail and food vendors including three smores stations and grill masters.
- Hot Chocolate stations will be available in the Veterans Memorial Hall parking lot (N. Main) and next to the Outdoor Movie Land on E. State.
- Photo opp stops will be throughout the Stroll including a brand new snow globe. Post your selfies with the hashtag #strollonstate.
Stroll on State Live Performances
Catch a live music or theater performance on three outdoor stages and two indoor stages while you’re strolling! Live performances start at 3 pm and end at 9 pm.
MERRY & BRIGHT MAIN STAGE (SPONSORED BY COMED)
|3 – 5 p.m.||DJ Vic Monsta|
|5 p.m.||Funky Christmas|
|5:45 p.m.||Tree Light Program led by City First Church|
|6:15 p.m.||Tree Lighting Ceremony|
|6:30 p.m.||JOANZ & B3E|
|7 – 8:30 p.m.||DJ Vic Monsta|
SILVER BELL STAGE (SPONSORED BY PCI)
|3 – 4:30 p.m.||The Lone Canary|
|5:45 p.m.||Tree Lighting Program at the Main Stage|
|6:30 p.m.||Barb Sorenson|
JINGLE BELL STAGE (SPONSORED BY PCI)
|3:30 p.m.||RPS 205 Elementary Choir|
|4 – 5:30 p.m.||Storytime every half hour!|
|5:45 p.m.||Tree Lighting at the Main Stage|
|6:30 – 8:30 p.m.||Storytime every half hour!|
VETERAN’S MEMORIAL HALL STAGE
|3 – 5:30 p.m.||The Nutcracker presented by The Rockford Dance Company|
|5:45 p.m.||Tree Lighting Program at the Main Stage|
|7 p.m.||Ms. LeMaster’s School of Dance|
Stroll on State Vendors
Try something new or enjoy an old favorite at Frosty’s Merry Market.
A list of Stroll on State vendors and locations will be listed here when it is announced!
Stroll on State Parking and Transportation
Downtown Rockford gets pretty busy during Stroll on State with more than 70,000 people attending each year. On-street parking, parking decks, and parking lots will be available.
If you’d rather not deal with parking, you can take a shuttle bus. The first shuttle will leave at 1 pm and the last shuttle will be at 9:30 pm.
Shuttle bus locations:
- YMCA (200 Y Blvd.)
- Crusader Community Health (1200 W. State St.)
- Bethesda Covenant Church (2101 E. State St.)