Summertime is a time for sun, fun and showing some cultural pride! Since its settlement, Rockford has been home to immigrants from all over the world and continues to be home to a multitude of ethnicities. Rockford is a melting pot of nationalities and this summer offers several options to experience some cultural food and traditions.

I know the saying goes “you are what you eat,” but when it comes to cultural fests and markets, you don’t have to be! If you’re feeling adventurous, or simply looking for something to do, check out some of the Rockford area’s cultural events.

Rockford’s Italian Market Pasqua Mercato

Sundays, June 2 - August, 2019, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Located around the home of Lino’s Restaurant, Pasqua Mercato is a seasonal open-air Italian Market dedicated to the idea of FAMILY (both community and nuclear). The market is a weekly home for families to celebrate, as most do, around the food they eat while supporting their larger family: community, local farmers, vendors and organizations. 

Midsommar Fest

Saturday, June 15, 2019, 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.

The Swedish Historical Society celebrates the longest day of the year with Midsommar Fest. The annual Swedish festival welcomes the arrival of the summer solstice with traditional Swedish foods and a variety of events including maypole dancing, children’s crafts, parade, home tours, live music and dancing.

Japanese Summer Festival

July 27 - 28, 2019, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Anderson Japanese Gardens holds the Japanese Summer Festival to celebrate traditional cultural arts. The festival features exhibits, demonstrations and unique performances that appeal to all age groups and helps foster a better understanding of the Japanese culture. Most Festival activities are included with Garden Admission, with a small fee required for tea ceremony participation.

Japanese Summer Festival

Festa Italiana

August 2 – 4, 2019

In its 41st year, Festa Italiana celebrates Italian culture with a weekend full of food, entertainment, amusement rides and live music. If you enjoy a little competition, you can also enter a team into their annual Bocce tournament. 

38th Annual Polish Fest

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Presented by the St. Stanislaus Church, Polish Fest features music, dancing, ethnic performances, bingo, children’s games and more. You can also enjoy traditional Polish foods such as pierogis, Polish sausage and potato pancakes. 

Midtown Ethnic Parade & Festival

Sunday, August 25, 2019, 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.

The Midtown Ethnic Parade & Festival are both free to the public, with many family-friendly activities for everyone to enjoy. The parade begins at Wyman Street and follows West and East State Streets to 7th Street, ending at the festival grounds. The festival grounds feature a variety of cultural cuisines for purchase and a Beer Garden for ages 21 and older. Families can also enjoy music, dancing, a genealogy area, family games and crafts and children’s activity area.

Greek Fest

September 7 – 8, 2019

For two days every year, Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in downtown Rockford hosts Greek Fest featuring Greek music and delicacies. Enjoy music, dancing (both modern and traditional Greek), food, Greek and domestic beers and wines, baked goods, desserts, religious and other Greek themed items for sale, a raffle drawing, and tours of the church. 

Oktoberfest

October 4 – 5, 2019

Hosted by the German Society of Rockford, the two-day event celebrates Oktoberfest at the Loves Park City Hall. The event kicks off with “Tapping of the Keg” and features live music, polka music, authentic German biers, German food and children’s games. If you’re up for the challenge, you can enter the Barmaid Bier Race, Bier Barrel Race or enter your dachshund in the Weiner Dog Race.