Rockford Chamber VOICE Article - July 2016
Become a #Rockfordexplorer

(Our community is filled with gems, it’s fun to discover them)
By Josh Albrecht, RACVB Director of Marketing & Public Affairs

One of the best parts of working at the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is that I get to explore Rockford and the surrounding region. I do it with fresh eyes as I have only worked in the community for just shy of two years. As a transplant, everything is new. Each neighborhood, each business district, each restaurant and attraction … they are all new and exciting and I love telling the world about these great places that I discover.

And, while a significant portion of the RACVB’s job is to bring the world to the city so that tourists and travelers can experience our community (and spend their money here!), I am finding more and more that it is equally as important to tell our own residents the story of their city.
Our daily routines make it easy for us to be blind to what is in our community as we travel the same roads to and from work, hit the same coffee joints or lunch spots each week, or buy memberships to our favorite museums and attractions. What if we challenge ourselves to become tourists in our own communities; to explore Rockford, Loves Park, Rockton or Roscoe as if we didn’t live here. What might we then discover?

At the recent RACVB Annual Luncheon, guest speaker Peter Kageyama talked about loving our city. He challenged the room to find the “love notes” in our community that help to inspire citizens to greater heights. He referenced the UW Health Sports Factory, the Rockford City Market and the murals dotted through the downtown as some of our “love notes.” And, I completely agree with him.

But I also think there is one more step that is needed in our love of city. Placemaking is a term used for the “love notes” that Peter talks about and they often are the components of community that are calling cards in public spaces. Large buildings, festivals, etc., that announce the community to its residents and visitors. But, in order for us to truly love our community, we need to discover the hidden gems … the everyday gems … the places where community happens, and where we get the Real. Original. experiences that make Rockford so, well, Real and Original.

For instance, how many of these places have you been to?:

- Hai-Quynh, a Vietnamese restaurant in the Midtown District
- La Chiquita, a southwest side grocery store and taqueria
- Severson Dells Forest Preserve, a beautiful park in southwest Winnebago County
- Chubby Guys BBQ, a BBQ joint on Riverside Blvd. with some tasty sauces
- Anderson Japanese Gardens, one of the finest gardens in the United States

Now, many of you reading this likely have been to Anderson Japanese Gardens, and maybe you have even been to all these locations. But, I guarantee you that many of those reading this column haven’t been to these spots yet. I’ll admit, I just made it to Hai-Quynh a few weeks back. And, by the way, you would be surprised at how many of us are life-long residents of the Rockford region and still haven’t been to many of the popular sites and attractions.

So, I challenge you to become a #Rockfordexplorer and visit a few places you have never been to in the Rockford region. Step out of your comfort zone and take in some of the amazing locations we have to be discovered. We still have roughly two months of summer left, so let’s take advantage of the nice weather and get out and about. AND, when you do it, share your adventure with #gorockford #Rockfordexplorer … and let help guide your way.