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Stroll on State, Festival of Lights and more: 23 things to do Thanksgiving weekend


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While it may be a forgotten holiday by some, Thanksgiving is finally here.

With Thanksgiving comes the unofficial start to the holiday season.

There are several holiday events this weekend, including Stroll on State, Festival of Lights, Small Business Saturday and much more.

Here are 23 things to do Thanksgiving weekend in the Rockford area.

11th Annual Stroll on State

What: Stroll on State is the Rockford region’s kickoff to the holiday season. The free community event in downtown Rockford features a parade, fireworks, a tree lighting, musical performances, surprise visits from Santa and more.

When: 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25

Where: Downtown Rockford

Cost: Free admission

For more: 815-963-8111

All Aglow Holiday Display

What: Celebrate the holidays by seeing the sparkling holiday lights in the outdoor gardens. The outdoor display features familiar favorites, light-wrapped trees and shrubs, as well as surprises to discover. View elegant illuminated stars and 50 jumbo lighted candy canes, all hand-made by staff. The outdoor grounds will have 300,000 lights, including many “glistening” lights, adding extra sparkle to the displays. Lights are on dusk to dawn.

When: Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, through Jan. 7, 2024

Where: Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, 1354 N. Second St., Rockford

Cost: Free admission

For more: 815-987-8858

2023 Festival of Lights

What: Drive through Sinnissippi Park and enjoy dozens of holiday light displays. Festival of Lights has been a stateline family tradition since 1989. See website for days and times.

When: Friday, Nov. 24 through Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023

Where: Sinnissippi Park, 1401 N. Second St., Rockford

Cost: Free; donations encouraged

For more:

Small Business Saturday

What: Start your Christmas shopping at a locally owned business the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

When Saturday, Nov. 25

Where: Rockford region

Annual Thanksgiving Ride

What: Meet at the Rock Cut State Park Boat ramp. Raffle prizes will be provided by Kegel’s bike shop.

When: 7:45 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 23

Where: Rock Cut State Park, 7318 Harlem Road, Loves Park

For more: Rockford Area Mountain Biking Alliance on Facebook

Turkey Twist Yoga

What: Get away from the hustle and bustle of Black Friday with a yoga class full of twists and some tea, to help digest all of that delicious Thanksgiving food.

When: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24

Where: Severson Dells Nature Center, 8786 Montague Road, Rockford

Cost: $15; $12 for members

For more: 815-335-2915

An Evening with Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts

What: Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts return for their annual Black Friday show. This event is open to the public.

When: 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24

Where: The Verdi Club, 782 N. Madison St., Rockford

Cost: $20.75

For more: Miles Nielsen on Facebook

All-Star Comedy Show

What: Chris Barnes and Sonya White headline. Barnes can be best described as a high-energy comic that will take an audience and keep them laughing as he interprets his experiences of life. White’s observational comedy is enhanced by dead-on impersonations and appropriate sound effects. Her comedy show is based on real-life experiences and her fond-but irreverent-interactions with friends, family and the world at large.

When: 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24

Where: Franchesco’s, 7128 Spring Creek Road, Rockford

Cost: $30-$50For more: Franchesco’s Ristorante on Facebook

Rockford IceHogs

What: The Ice Hogs take on the Milwaukee Admirals.

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24

Where: BMO Center, 300 Elm St., Rockford

Cost: $16.50-$80

For more: 815-968-5222

The Jimmys

What: The Jimmys are an award winning, 7-piece funky blues band that combines the seasoned keyboard and Hammond B-3 organ talents of Jimmy Voegeli, blues guitarist Perry Weber on six-strings and vocals, drummer Chris Sandoval, bass guitarist John Wartenweiler and a 3-piece horn section featuring Pete Ross, Joe Goltz and Mike Boman.

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24

Where: Grand Avenue Pub, 136 W. Grand Ave., Beloit, Wis.

For more: The Jimmys on Facebook

Annual Holiday Handmade Market

What: Support artists while getting one-of-a-kind gifts and trinkets at annual handmade market.

When: Noon to 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24, noon to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26

Where: 317 Art Collaborative, 317 Market St., Rockford

For more: 815-272-0411

Gifts in the Greenhouse

What: Visit several crafters for gifts and holiday crafts at this craft show. Many unique items to see in a warm greenhouse. You can also get greens, poinsettias, house plants, bird seed, hydroponic supplies and more.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25

Where: Rock Valley Garden Center, 785 N. Bell School Road, Rockford

For more: 815-398-1937

Friendship Bracelet Making

What: Celebrate shopping small and shopping local. Make a “Rockton Roadies” friendship bracelet. Fun for all ages and all people. Pick up your starter kit at DeeDee’s Main St. Coffee starting as soon as 9 a.m. Then visit any or all participating locations to pick up unique beads and charms.

Where: Downtown Rockton

Cost: Free

For more: Friendship Bracelet Making on Facebook

Experience the Holidays

What: Enjoy live Christmas music by Reed and Waddy and free hot cider by the fireside in the cozy Hearth Rock Cafe. Every year, Kim Benson transforms the historic Benson Stone Co. building into a winter wonderland. Bring the kiddos, ride the glass elevator and enjoy the festivities around the towering Christmas tree.

When: 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays Nov. 25 through Dec. 16

Where: Benson Stone Co., 1555 Railroad Ave., Rockford

Cost: Free

For more: 815-227-2000

Cirque Musica Holiday Wonderland

What: “Wonderland” is an all-new musical journey that will transport audiences to a magical land far away for a fun-filled, unforgettable holiday-themed show experience. Featuring the cast of Cirque Musica, acrobats and aerialists will display hilarious hijinks and holiday cheer. The show blends the spellbinding grace and daredevil athleticism of today’s greatest circus performers with a musical mix of timeless seasonal favorites. Cirque Musica Holiday Wonderland is an unforgettable experience for the entire family to enjoy a world-class circus experience infused with the holiday classics we all love.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25

Where: Coronado Performing Arts Center, 314 N. Main St., Rockford

Cost: $39.50-$99.50

For more: 815-968-5222

Seventh Annual Advocates Club

What: Enjoy a family friendly night during Stroll on State. Dive into an atmosphere enriched with a parade, fireworks, musical acts and surprise Santa appearances. Our doors remain open throughout the night, welcoming guests to come and go as they wish. Proceeds benefit Winnebago County CASA, a local non-profit that advocates for children in the juvenile court system who have experienced abuse or neglect.

When: 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25

Where: The Standard, 214 E. State St., Rockford

Cost: $60; $20 for ages 7-14; free for children 6 and younger

For more: 815-319-6880

The Return of Turkey Bowling

What: After taking several years off, turkey bowling is back. With a donation, each bowler gets three chances to show off their skills with a frozen turkey on our showroom alley; 1st and 2nd place winners will receive a prize. Registration will begin at 11:30 a.m.

When: Noon Saturday, Nov. 25

Where: Kegel Harley-Davidson, 7125 Harrison Ave., Rockford

Cost: $10 donation or 10 canned goods for the Rock River Valley Pantry

For more: 815-332-7125

Contemporary Egyptologist: Jhaz Elayne Print Showing

What: Dive into the heart of Cairo’s urban tapestry through Jhaz Elayne’s lens, where architecture intertwines with humanity. This immersive collection captures the essence of the city while occasionally featuring its inhabitants, adding depth and emotion to each composition. Photographer Jhaz Elayne is based in Rockford.

When: 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25

Where: The 815 Collective, 130 N. 1st St., Rockford

Cost: Free

For more: The 815 Collective on Facebook

Holiday Merry Market

What: This Merry Market is during Stroll on State. Enjoy vendors, live music and holiday cheer.

When: 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25

Where: Indoor City Market, 116 N. Market St., Rockford

Cost: Free admission

For more: 815-977-5124

RCU’s Performance of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah”

What: The “Messiah” represents the quintessential classical music highpoint of the Christmas season. With the exception of 2020, RCU has presented these concerts every year since 1945. Singers represent some 30 church organizations from many denominations and many communities in the Northern Illinois-Southern Wisconsin region.

When: 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25 and Sunday, Nov. 26

Where: Emmanuel Lutheran Church, 920 Third Ave., Rockford

Cost: Free

For more:

Wine & Weave Chunky Knit Blanket Workshop

What: Experience is not needed for this knit blanket woodshop, though certain styles are more advanced and may require extended time to complete. You will choose your yarn colors onsite.

When: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26

Where: DC Estate Winery, 8877 State Line Road, South Beloit

Cost: From $85 and up

For more: 608-481-1565

Soup, there it is! Pop-Up

What: Big Jon’s created its latest pop-up around the love of soup and want to bring some of their favorite family recipes to you. Choose to buy quarts ($16) or join on the day of and have a soup flight ($10) and maybe a grilled cheese. You can always carry out, too.

When: Noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26

Where: Big Jon’s, 105 Buchanan St., Belvidere

For more: 815-985-2693

Cherry Valley Christmas Market

What: Come for Cherry Valley’s first festive Christmas Market. You will find a wide variety of small businesses offering products including permanent jewelry, accessories, gifts and food. In addition to the shopping experience. Santa Claus will make a special appearance after the market at The Grainery down by Village Hall.

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26

Where: Savvy Event Co., 125 E. State St., Suite A, Cherry Valley

For more: 815- 505-1061

Kathi Edwards is a freelance correspondent.

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