To celebrate National Travel & Tourism Week I'd like to introduce you to a few of my friends who are also leaders in our Rockford region. These people work extremely hard behind-the-scenes to roll out the red carpet to our residents and visitors. It takes a strong unified community to make a big impact and each of these individuals continue to do their part to offer an above and beyond experience for people to enjoy each day. I admire each of them and for that I want you to get to know them a bit better too. So, here are my picks for 3 Faces of Tourism and a little Q&A to learn more about each person and their story.

Lucha Cantina Josh Binning

Josh Binning, owner of Lucha Cantina a.k.a The Man With a Plan
I've known Josh for quite some time now and the more I get to know him the more I find myself impressed. He's like the friend next door whenever you see him. He'll always make time for you, always do what he can to ensure your experience at his delicious restaurant is top notch and he's always learning and growing as much as he can to outdo his previous self. Here are a few fun facts about him that you may or may not have already known.

1. How long have you owned Lucha Cantina in Rockford?

-We opened Lucha in August of 2013 so it will be four years this coming August.

2. What is your favorite part about owning a restaurant in the Rockford region?

-My favorite part of the job is my team. I love working with the staff and to always see what I can do to help them take great care of our guests.

3. What's a little known fact about you?

I've never had a Poptart (This is a little shocking to me. Someone bring this man a Poptart)

4. Are there any new events that you'll be involved with or new offerings to the community?

We just came off of our most successful Cinco de Mayo ever. It was crazy. As usual we are excited to be a part of many community events and we are excited to be a food vendor at Urban Farmgirl's Main Street Market at Midway Village Museum next weekend! We have also started doing monthly features on our menu and that has been very well received by our guests.

Culture Shock Lauren Davis

Lauren Davis with Culture Shock and Lauren Davis Creative a.k.a. The Super Millennial
I'm quite certain there isn't anything she can't do. She continues to juggle many hats, she stays heavily involved in community events and also is a lead organizer of so many other events to benefit Rockford area businesses. Just when I think she's finally filled her plate to the max, she'll conquer more and effortlessly.

1. When did you and Skyler (husband) open Culture Shock and when did you start Lauren Davis Creative?

Culture Shock was created as a funky place to curate locally made gifts and items with a story (as well as vinyl records) in 2006. I was 19 years old and Skyler was 25. Lauren Davis Creative was born freshly after I graduated college in 2010. I began freelancing while in college and afterwards my freelance work referred me onto multiple clients and created a snowball effect that allowed me to start my official business from day one. 

2. Why you love what you do each and every day? 

With Culture Shock, what gives me the most joy is getting to meet new people every day. Some people have the illusion that they might not "get" our store, but when they take the chance to stop in and find all of our unique, ethical, and story/music-driven products, they find out that there is truly something for everyone in here. I also love seeing their eyes light up when we tell them that MOST gifts in our store are under $25 with some exceptions.

3. A fun fact about you?

As a graphic designer I love, study, appreciate, and am truly enamored with Art, but I never took one art class until College. I had always been interested in business but I had dreams of being a journalist. It wasn't until Skyler and I had Culture Shock that I realized I had a natural lust for marketing, art and great design. That's when everything changed for me.

4. From a Millennial's perspective what are some of your favorite things about the Rockford region?

I love the art and music scene that has formed out of the desperation of lack there-of. There is never a night I have nothing to do. I like to open my mind to all different types of the "arts" and take it all in; Rockford is so vibrant. We try to celebrate this by hosting live music in our shop, selling local and regional music, and attending as many art and music events as we can, and I always end up at Social or Octane at the end of the night.  

I would also say that I love how the local businesses really stick together in Rockford to help each other through organizations like Winnebago Buy Local. I have an 11 year old business and I am a Millennial. That's not something that everyone has, and its due to the supportive nature of the businesses around us who let us know that we are never alone and we are all standing together. 

midway village museum lonna converso

Lonna Converso, Director of Marketing and Social Media at Midway Village Museum a.k.a. The Giver!
She is someone who gives a great deal to others...whether it be great advice, incredible ideas or even a hug in time of need, Lonna is someone who cares about people and loves her region. After leaving a conversation with her, you're truly energized to do so much more!

1. How long have you been working at Midway Village Museum?

9 years this month.

2. Why you love what you do each and every day?

Each day is interesting at the museum never is there a same day twice.  We see many school groups on weekdays coming on tours, while the weekends are about private rentals such as weddings, bridal showers or other family gatherings.  Weekends also mean greeting and engaging visitors in the  larger special we produce to educate the public about history.

3. Is there a fun fact about you?

One interesting fact is that I hate to cook.  It is interesting because the majority of people I meet for some reason always start talking about recipes or baking. Not sure why…..but I’m better outside of the kitchen.

4. Any new events or achievements that the Museum has seen over the last year?   

This year, the museum’s The Great War: World War I at Midway Village increased in attendance by 82%! This was reflective in the team approach at the museum. The event grew in scope with new features for the public to engage and learn about, while the re-enactors popular with this event also grew. We saw the most re-enactors come out to portray both civilians and soldiers. All these factors, plus the marketing made for the success of the event. The public came out in record numbers.I enjoy working at the museum not only because of the history I learn and engage with on a daily basis, but also the hundreds of volunteers I meet who assist in making sure Midway Village Museum is able to deliver its mission of history preservation and education.

#NTTW17 #GoRockford #InGoodCompany