Experience our Top Annual Festivals and Events offering a wide range of cultural activities and community gatherings in the Rockford region. All year long there’s an array of celebrations that captivate both locals and visitors alike. We have everything you could possibly imagine from the exhilarating Old Settlers Days in Rockton to the most magical Christmas event at Stroll on State in downtown Rockford. There is something for everyone to enjoy, so come and explore the traditions, flavors, diversity, and experiences that await at our beloved festivals and events in the Rockford region.
Rockford Region Restaurant Week
Rockford Region Restaurant Week features restaurants, bars and bakeries offering unique specials, deals, packages and experiences. Offerings include special prix-fixe menus, craft cocktails, creative carry-out and delivery deals, exclusive menu items and limited-time promotions. Over 60 establishments take part in Rockford Region Restaurant Week.
Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition
Witness artists from around the state transform snow blocks into stunning sculptures throughout Sinnissippi Park. Teams compete for the right to represent Illinois in the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition. There is an awards show and public viewing opportunities.
Rockford North End’s Hot Chocolate Crawl
North End Neighborhood
Participating local businesses up and down North Main Street will offer special hot chocolate creations to warm you up and fantastic local shopping throughout the day and night. There will be mugs available and giveaways happening throughout the event.
815 Ale Fest
Sample craft brews from local and regional breweries at this popular beer festival, feast on delicious local foods and enjoy live music and high-fives + hugs from Hammy the Hog.
Rockton Yeti Fest
Join the winter festivities featuring snow sculpting, dog sledding demonstrations, a yeti scavenger hunt, adults only onesie pub crawl, family-friendly hot cocoa crawl, and the SNOW BALL!
Rockford Home Show
Meet the home improvement experts and explore new products, services, ideas, concepts and expertise on interior and exterior design. Plus see amazing magic live on stage, wildlife stage shows with Hoo Haven Rehab Center, kids’ gardening projects and kids’ building projects with Home Depot.
From dinosaurs to mammoths to fish to microfossils and neuro paleontology and everything in between, PaleoFest has something for all ages and all paleontology interests including daytime talks, family workshops, Paleo Passport stations, Art of the Earth classes and exploring the exhibit halls of the museum.
Sock Monkey Madness
Midway Village Museum
Discover the importance of the iconic sock monkey to Rockford’s industrial past. Learn how a simple sock led to the growth of a city and the creation of a universally recognized symbol. Visitors will sew their own sock monkey with guided instruction and tour the exhibit “The Missing Link: Sock, Monkey’s and Rockford’s Industrial Past.”
St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Paddyfest
Celebrate Irish culture with a lively parade going through downtown Rockford followed by Paddyfest where people will get together to enjoy real Irish music, entertainment and, of course, delicious food and beverages.
Explore the wild, wonderful, and often strange world of butterflies and moths! See the whole lepidoptera lifecycle in action as caterpillars munch on leaves, butterflies emerge from their chrysalis, and moths from their cocoons. Get an up-close look at these amazing insects in the butterfly house as you’re surrounded by native and exotic butterflies.
This biannual gallery walk is hosted by the Rockford Area Arts Council and features new and established artists of the Rockford region. ArtScene is focused in Rockford's City Center, with other dynamic peripheral venues included too. This is an opportunity to travel around and immerse yourself in the vibrant arts community with exhibitions and events set up at local area businesses. ArtScene is also held in the October.
Rockford City Market
(May – September)
Rockford City Market has become the place to be on Friday evenings in downtown Rockford during the summer and fall months. Nestled in the historic commercial district along the Rock River, it has a variety of local offerings to shop for including produce, prepared foods, handcrafted goods, local craft brews, live music and more. This rain or shine event provides a world-class and vibrant, fun experience for all.
Several other farmers markets have sprung up throughout the region on various days each week, including the Rockton River Market on Wednesdays. Therefore, getting your local produce and hand-made goods is easier than ever in the Rockford region.
Tuesday Evening In The Gardens
(May - August)
Anderson Japanese Gardens
Join friends and family for an evening of live music and camaraderie in the beautiful setting of Anderson Japanese Gardens. Pack your own picnic or enjoy food and beverages available for purchase from local vendors.
Dinner on Dock
(May – September)
Prairie St. Brewhouse
The backdrop of the scenic Rock River & downtown Rockford creates a unique and vivacious gathering where Rockford comes together to enjoy the region’s best musical acts.
Food Truck Tuesdays
(May – October)
Enjoy tasty eats from local food trucks while soaking in the beauty of the gardens! Then, hitch a free ride on Trolley Car 36 at any of the marked marked trolley stops along the river.
Ernie’s Pub Midtown Dog Walk
This is a PAWsome outdoor event with kiddie pools, sprinklers, games and more for your furry friends. Bad Humor Ice Cream Truck, The Canine Crunchery, Inzombia Coffee, Ernie's with food and beverages, will be there to cover the humans' needs too!
Memorial Day Parade
Downtown Rockford and Pecatonica
A tradition since 1870, the Memorial Day Parade honors the country’s fallen soldiers and features area veterans organizations, school bands, police and fire departments and organizations that support area veterans. Memorial Day parades are held in Rockford and in Pecatonica.
CRE8IV – Transformational Art Festival
CRE8IV is a community-building, arts-infused placemaking and public art effort designed to enhance the region for residents and visitors. CRE8IV has grown to include more than 40 projects including local floral and fauna, positive messages, stimulating compositions with much more in store. This initiative kicks off each year with a festival celebrating, supporting and recognizing public art and its great impact on this community.
Experience a wide variety of plants, flowers, garden décor, art, educational information booths and more! Listen to live music performances in our Fountain Garden while enjoying a meal from local food truck vendors.
Old Settlers Days
Enjoy concerts, vendors, rides and more at the largest fundraising event of the year for the Rockton Lions charities. Event highlights include live music, food & drinks, a carnival, a mobile blood drive donation, 5K run, and the OSD Parade!
Commemorate African American freedom and culture in the Rockford region with Rockford’s Juneteenth Celebration. This event features a community cookout, Chautauqua, Juneteenth Queen competition, community church service, all-black graduation, and Sunday’s Best competition.
Erlander Home Museum & Nordic Cultural Center Grounds
The Midsommar celebration in Rockford include making flower crowns, dancing around the majstång (maypole), eating wonderful foods, drinking beer, and dancing all day.
4th of July Parade and Sky Concert
Experience patriotic festivities and a spectacular fireworks Sky Show performance during the Annual 4th of July celebration in downtown Rockford. Be sure to pick a spot to watch the show along the banks of the Rock River, various rooftops or the Davis Park lawn in downtown Rockford.
Phantom Regiment Show of Shows
Experience the art of musical pageantry as the Show of Shows features some of the best drum and bugle corps in the world. Come and see why this event has become so special in the Rockford area.
Chow Down Food Truck Festival
Calling all Foodies! Join us right on Rockford’s Miracle Mile for a food truck fest that focuses on multicultural cuisine. Featured food trucks are diverse and come from near and far.
Japanese Summer Festival
Anderson Japanese Gardens
The Japanese Summer Festival features exhibits, demonstrations and unique performances that appeal to all age groups and foster a better understanding of the Japanese culture.
Boylan Catholic High School, Rockford
Experience a fun-filled, three-day festival celebrating Italian culture during the longest-running festival in Rockford. Activities include Bocce tournaments, wine making, Limoncello demonstrations, with live entertainment, carnival rides, games, crafts and delicious Italian foods and beverages.
Winnebago County Fair
Winnebago County Fairgrounds
Enjoy classic fair attractions and entertainment at the Winnebago County Fairgrounds. This classic event celebrates community, friendships, family and agriculture since 1921.
St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, Rockford
Celebrate Polish heritage with live music, dancing and cuisine throughout the day. Festival-type foods will be available along with ethnic Polish offerings including pierogis, potato pancakes, pastries, sausage, sauerkraut and beef.
Rock River Anything That Floats Race
Prairie St. Brewing Co.
More than just a homage to the incredibly popular raft races of days gone by, the Rock River Anything That Floats Race is a tradition for new generations to love and watch creative watercrafts compete on the Rock River. The racecourse is 1.65 miles in length and ends in a grand finish at Prairie Street Brewhouse for entertainment and an awards afterparty.
Discovery Center Museum
Join Discovery Center Museum in welcoming bubble-celebrity Geoffrey Akins for his live performances and sudsy science fun. After the show, join in the Bubble-Palooza Playground to try some of Geoff’s tricks, and create some of your own as you test your soapy skills with bubble art and activities for the whole family.
Screw City Beer Fest
Raise a glass to this thrilling craft beer festival in the heart of downtown Rockford at the intersection of State and Main Streets. Don’t miss this opportunity to immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere and experience the finest brews that the Screw City has to offer. The event is where community, celebration and fantastic flavors come together.
Enjoy a fiesta of flavors with food trucks and vendors from all over the Midwest. This is a foodie competition to see who has the best Tamales in the area. In addition, this event also includes a lowrider show and hopping contest, live entertainment, a jalapeño eating contest and more.
Greenwich Village Art Fair
Rockford Art Museum
This outdoor event is held at the Rockford Art Museum featuring juried artists, live music by regional musicians, children’s art activities, a local vendor marketplace, food trucks, cocktails and more. Established in 1948, GVAF is the longest-running art fair of its kind in the Midwest.
Tour De North End
North End Neighborhood, Rockford
Pedal through Rockford's north end on your bicycle and explore its vibrant neighborhoods, public art and local area businesses. Participating businesses will be giving out stamps during the event and the more stamps collected better your chances of winning fun prizes at the TDNE after party. There is food and music all day, and the only entry fee is for the bike ride, so all are welcome to hang out to enjoy live music and fun at The Olympic Tavern at no additional cost.
Glow in the Garden Festival
Celebrate the end of summer and immerse yourself in enchanting light displays at Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens. Purchase a floating lantern to personalize and release into the Eclipse Lagoon, run a unique glowing 5K along the Rock River and enjoy family fun throughout the gardens. Food trucks will also be available.
World War II Days
Midway Village Museum
Step back in time for the World War II Days reenactment including encampments of Allied and Axis troops in the Midway Village woods and realistic skirmishes integrated in the historic village. There are also elaborate and realistic battles complete with tanks, artillery, armored vehicles, and exciting pyrotechnic displays.
Fall Festivals and Orchards Kick-off
Edward’s Apple Orchard West, Curran’s Orchard, Valley Orchard
As the air turns crisp and the leaves begin to turn bright colors, the Rockford region is in full fall mode. Delight in the season by visiting our various fall festivals and orchards. This is the chance to have apple cider and pumpkin spiced anything until your heart’s content. Enjoy pumpkin and apple picking, hayrides, shopping, feeding animals at various farms and petting zoos, plus so much more.
Loves Park City Hall
Raise your stein and celebrate German culture with music, food and beer. This event is organized by the German Society Oktoberfest and features a variety of attractions such as cultural booths, souvenir booths, children’s areas, stein-holding contests, tapping of the keg with Mayor Jury, the crowning of Miss Oktoberfest and authentic German dancing and beer.
Rockford IceHogs Season
Cheer on the Rockford IceHogs, members of the American Hockey League, as they hit the ice. The team plays their home games at the BMO Harris Bank Center, and serve as the minor league affiliates of the National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks.
Autumn at the Arboretum
Join Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden during the first weekend in October to experience a wide variety of family-friendly educational programs, activities and more to celebrate the fall season. Highlights during this event include a Fall Smartphone Tour & Scavenger Hunt, Doggy Costume Contest, Kids’ Pumpkin Carving Contest, live music, food trucks just to name a few.
Head of the Rock Regatta
This competitive rowing race is 3.2 miles long on the Rock River beginning at Martin Park and ending at the YMCA. Head races start in single file in short 10 second intervals and race against the clock but often provide head-to-head competition at the finish line. It is a sanctioned event of the United States Rowing Association, requiring the observance of US Rowing race protocol.
All Hallows’ Eve
Midway Village Museum
Dress up in costume and trick-or-treat outdoors in the Victorian Village, see spooky attractions and have family-friendly fun at this Halloween event. Throughout the day there are games, over 20 village buildings decked out in spooky decorations, scary folktales, a costume contests and more.
Williams Tree Farm
Create cherished memories with your family while selecting the perfect Christmas tree at Williams Tree Farm. During their opening celebration you can sip on hot cocoa, eat delicious treats, shop for your yearly ornament and other holiday goodies, play fun games, pet animals, ride a train, meet Santa and Mrs. Claus and take a wagon ride to the property to cut down your fresh Christmas tree. There are so many ways to celebrate and make holiday memories to last a lifetime.
Light up the Parks
City of Loves Park and Machesney Park
It’s a special time of year as the City of Loves Park and Village of Machesney Park come together to celebrate the magic of the holiday season together. The event begins with a Christmas tree lighting, fireworks display and holiday parade that is both festive and magical for all ages to enjoy.
Festival of Lights
Enjoy dazzling light displays and holiday cheer at this drive-through experience inside Sinnissippi Park. This event has over 85 Christmas light displays that are created and sponsored by local families, non-profits and businesses, adding new and exciting displays to look forward to each year. Santa and the Snow Queen can also be spotted at various times throughout the route greeting guests. We highly suggest playing Christmas music on the radio during your visit for added Christmas cheer. Admission is free, donations are appreciated.
Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens
Experience the magic of the holidays with outdoor lights and displays at Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens. View light-wrapped trees and shrubs that light up the paths, as well as new surprises to discover. View elegant and illuminated stars, jumbo lighted candy canes and glistening lights that add extra sparkle to the already beautiful displays.
Stroll on State
The “Best Holiday Fest in the Midwest” is held annually on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, in conjunction with Small Business Saturday, and is the Rockford region’s kick-off to the holiday season. The free community event in downtown Rockford features a 5K run/walk, parade, fireworks, tree lighting, musical performances, surprise visits with Santa and so much more.
Anderson Japanese Gardens
Wander through the illuminated lights at Anderson Japanese Gardens. This wintertime lights experience features dramatic up-lighting and thousands of white string lights woven throughout the serene landscape and canopy of the Garden. Rotating food trucks are available nightly.
Experience Scandinavian culture and traditions at this festive outdoor market on Rockford’s north end. Bundle up and enjoy a mug of homemade glogg, hot chocolate, lefse, fish on a stick, games, horse-drawn carriage rides, vendor booths and more.
Explore various holiday markets throughout the Rockford region featuring unique gifts and hand-crafted artisan goods. This is the perfect way to get ahead of your holiday shopping and to find local one-of-a-kind items to give during the holidays.
For more information about these and other events throughout the year, including dates, pricing and directions please refer to their event listings on our website or their respective event website. Note that some event details are subject to change.
Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens (All Aglow photo)
Rockford Area Arts Council (Rockford ArtScene photo)
Rock River Anything That Floats Race (raft race photo)
Juneteenth Rockford (Juneteenth celebration photo)
Midway Village Museum (WWII Days photo)
Phantom Regiment (PH photo)
Rockford IceHogs (ice hockey photo)
Rock River Current (Ernie’s Midtown Pub Dog Walk)