A great weekend’s journey is right inside our region. Here are some of our area’s excellent places to play.
Swedish Historical Society of Rockford: Celebrate the Solstice at Midsommar Fest
The Swedish Historical Society of Rockford invites the public to celebrate Midsommar Fest, a traditional Swedish festival that’s celebrated worldwide to welcome the arrival of the summer solstice. Now in its 75th year, Midsommar Fest offers fun for all ages.
The festivities will be celebrated rain or shine on Saturday, June 20, from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on the Erlander Home Museum grounds, 404 S. 3rd St., Rockford. Visitors can step into a quaint Nordic village featuring Mormor’s Attic, Blackhawk Wood Carvers, blacksmithing demonstrations and an abundance of artisan shops in the “Marknad.”
Stockholm Inn will be serving Swedish pancakes, meatballs with lingonberries, herring open-faced sandwiches, hot dogs, strawberries and ice cream. The Prarie Street Brewhouse will be serving barbeque and Lingonberry beer, among other things. Baked goods and other treats from several local vendors will also be sold.
As always, there will be music and dancing, this year with the Swedish Folk dancers, Nordic Folk Dancers of Chicago and entertainment by DJ Dain. Visitors will be invited to join the dancers and learn a few steps while dancing around the Maypole, or Majstangen, at noon.
The Erlander Home Museum will be open for tours throughout the day. There will be raffles, prizes, contests and games for children of all ages.
The festival also will feature a children’s area with crafts, storytelling and games, including the Viking yard game and KUBB, a lawn game that involves knocking over wooden blocks by throwing wooden batons. Throughout the day, visitors will meet “Pippi Longstocking” and mingle with residents in Swedish costumes.
“Midsommar Natt,” the evening program, will feature live music performed by Rockford’s very own famous Swede, Miles Nielsen, and his band. Admission is free for the daytime event and $10 for the evening concert.
The Swedish Historical Society of Rockford was established in 1938, by a group of Rockford citizens who had visited Delaware to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the first arrival of Swedes to North America. A Swedish colony thrived near the Delaware River from 1638 until 1655, when it was captured by the Dutch. The local Society was formed on Jan. 31, 1939 and incorporated in Illinois as a not-for-profit on Nov. 29, 1950.
The Swedish Historical Society is organized exclusively for historical, educational, and charitable purposes. In harmony with this purpose, it operates the Erlander Home Museum and preserves Swedish-American history and culture through activities such as the conservation of artifacts, museum displays and educational programs.
The historic home is listed on the National Register and can be toured Sundays from 1 to 3 p.m. or by calling the museum at (815) 963-5559 for appointments. The suggested donation is $5. To learn more, visit swedishhistorical.org or visit the Society on Facebook.
Downtown Rockford: Dinner on the Dock Rocks at Brewhouse
A sure sign that summer’s here is the start of weekly Dinner on the Dock, each Thursday evening, at Prairie Street Brewhouse, 200 Prairie St., Rockford.
The event brings together local musicians, boaters and other visitors, with food and drink enjoyed on the banks of the Rock River.
A new sports bar and stage and new food and beverage choices have been introduced this year, says Rachael Pennell, events manager at Prairie Street Brewhouse.
Since its beginning in 2011, the event has grown to attract 700 people weekly. “We expect more people this year, because we’ll have the space,” Pennell says. “I think people are enjoying the revitalization of the downtown and appreciate having something to do on Thursday nights. People love it all – the music, waterfront, food and beverage.”
The fun continues every Thursday through August, rain or shine. In the event of rain, it takes place inside the Rockford Brewing Co. atrium. Food and drink are available from 5 to 10 p.m., and live music plays from 6 to 9 p.m. The free event is open to people of all ages.
Menu items include a half-pound Angus beef hamburger on a brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion and cheese. Sandwiches include grilled chicken; BBQ Pulled Pork; Usinger Bratwurst on a hoagie with beer kraut, grilled onions and peppers; Vienna Beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun with Chicago-style condiments; and a garden salad with a choice of dressings.
Dockside Bar & Grill, a sports bar which opened at the Brewhouse on May 1, provides a casual setting on the river level, with an indoor and outside seating area. Dockside is open during the same hours as Rockford Brewing Co., except on Thursday evenings. The sports bar will be open for drinks only, beginning at 3 p.m. Food will be served on the deck.
Dockside will offer the same full bar drink menu offered at the restaurant, plus additional beers not locally brewed. A Walnut Burger will replace the Black Bean Burger as a vegetarian choice on the menu, Pennell says.
The restaurant bar list has 16 handcrafted beers on tap, including Nikolob, “the beer that made Milwaukee jealous.” The beer was first made by Peacock Brewery in the 1800s, in the same building. The hometown beer is described as a light, crisp lager with noble Czech hops.
The sports bar has a purpose all its own, says co-owner Chris Manuel, who operates the Rockford Brewing Co. with building owner Dustin Koch and partner Reed Sjostrom.
“It’s a casual setting, where you can get great food, great service, fresh beer, in a friendly outside environment,” Manuel says. “It’s where people can take a break from the business of life and sit by the water.”
These are the newest developments since the building was purchased by Loyd and Diane Koch in 2000 and construction began in 2012. Improvements include banquet rooms for large or small groups, office space, high-end apartments, a brewery, bar, fuel station and docks for boats and more, all with the hope of giving some life to the city’s downtown and riverfront.
“We’ve always wanted to lead the way for added development in downtown Rockford,” Manuel says. “We wanted to see a vibrant downtown, with a unique and fun environment, and we’re seeing it now.”
During Dinner on the Dock, musicians will perform from a new stage attached to the boat dock. The deck has seating for about 200 people, and tables of eight or more can be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. Otherwise, people are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, arrive by boat and anchor in the river, or use one of the 20 slips for public use at no cost.
The entertainment lineup this year includes The Grandkids, June 25; Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts, July 2; Starlite Radio, July 9; Harlan Jefferson, July 16; Three Good Men, July 23; Unity the Band, July 30; Piano Fondue: dueling pianos, Aug. 6; The Jimmy’s, Aug. 13; Dead Horses, Aug. 20; and Honest Collins, Aug. 27.
“We see a lot of the same people week after week,” says Nicole Blough, assistant events manager. “They come from all over because it’s something different to do for people of all ages.”
McHenry County: From Land to Lake, Find Some New Outings
Since 2009, Charlie Copley has been eyeing the Three Oaks Recreation Area in Crystal Lake for a special project: a 32-acre cable wakeboard park.
This summer, his dream will become a reality when The Quarry Cable Park and Grille debuts.
“I grew up wakeboarding on Crystal Lake,” says Copley, 35. “We kids always just dreamed about this park out there, with these features where you could perform tricks. I was never even aware of the cable system being able to offer such a thing. It was a pipe dream at the time.”
That “cable system” – motorized cables suspended by towers – allows riders to wakeboard without a boat, making the sport much more accessible. Although they’ve been popular in Europe for decades, cable wakeboard parks have just recently caught on in the U.S.
Copley shared his vision with fellow Crystal Lake resident Pat McGinnis, 40, and the two construction business owners won a bid from the city to bring the park to life, complete with jumps and obstacles on the water, plus a bar and grill, volleyball and bags courts, a live music stage and more.
“There are so many kids who haven’t even been on a boat, let alone tried wakeboarding,” Copley says. “That, to me, is going to be the most rewarding part of this project.”
McGinnis says the two plan to host special programs for veterans, boys and girls clubs and special-needs groups down the road.
“Not everyone can wakeboard, but even hooking up tubes to the cables and letting kids get pulled really slowly is going to be good for the community,” he says. “It’s going to be a good, safe place for kids to hang out.”
Learn more at thequarrycablepark.com.
For a relaxing summer activity, consider the Woodstock Mozart Festival, a three-weekend classical concert series that pays tribute to Wolfgang Mozart and those influenced by his work.
“It’s kind of been the best-kept secret in McHenry County,” says Jack Bechaud, a festival volunteer and marketing assistant.
Each Saturday and Sunday from July 25 through Aug. 9, a concert will be presented in one of two locations: the historic Woodstock Opera House or the Sanfilippo Place de la Musique in Barrington Hills.
Both will feature Grammy award-winning musicians playing in a smaller hall – a venue preferred by Mozart, Bechaud says.
Before the concert, guests can meet the artists. “Basically, the conductor and guest artist are there to talk about the music,” Bechaud says. “It’s a fascinating hour to be interacting with these people who, quite frankly, have attained a world level of recognition for their work.”
Learn more at mozartfest.org.
The Sanfilippo Place de la Musique houses the world’s largest collection of antique automatic music instruments, such as music boxes, phonographs and coin-operated pianos.
Jasper Sanfilippo – former CEO of John B. Sanfilippo and Son Inc. in Elgin – and his wife, Marian, wanted to share their collection, but they also wanted to benefit nonprofits, says Gregory Leifel, executive director of The Sanfilippo Foundation.
So, they opened up their 44,000-square-foot mansion to charity events and fundraisers. One popular activity is the Sanfilippo Foundation Summer Concert Series, hosted once a month from June through September. The concerts include a 90-minute tour of the house and music machines, followed by a 90-minute concert.
Most of the estate is open to visitors, including a 30,000-square-foot Carousel Pavilion that houses an 1881 steam locomotive, train cars and the 1890 Eden Palais Carousel, the most complete European salon carousel in the world.
Last year, more than 15,000 people visited the estate, raising more than $1 million for charities, Leifel says. The Sanfilippo Foundation hopes to match that milestone again this year.
To learn more, visit sanfilippofoundation.org. Discover more McHenry County attractions at visitmchenrycounty.com.
Rocky Waters Vineyard & Winery: Excellent Views, Wine, Fishing & Hospitality
If the idea of a serene and private setting with a plush fishing cabin appeals to you, set against the backdrop of vineyards and a winery, you may want to consider a getaway to Rocky Waters Vineyard & Winery, 2003 W. Hanover Road, Hanover, Ill.
Jared and Phyllis Spahn established this idyllic vineyard in 1997, before the renaissance of winemaking in northern Illinois had fully wakened. Their operation has been recognized by Midwest Living Magazine as one of the “Top Places To Visit” for five consecutive years.
“The view of and from the lodge at Rocky Waters Vineyard and Winery was featured in Hollywood films for three consecutive years beginning in 2012,” says Jared.
The 25-acre vineyard is perched on a bluff in hilly Jo Daviess County offers lovely views and tranquil places to sit and enjoy them. There’s a gift shop, tasting room and spacious deck for relaxing with a glass of wine.
Fourteen wines are made on the property, 100 percent from grapes grown there, such as Marechal Foch, Leon Millot, St. Croix and white varietals of Lacrosse and St. Pepin. Every wine sold here has won a medal, and 32 of the medals were won in international wine competitions with judges from around the world.
“Rocky Waters has earned 40 medals in 5 years of entering competitions,” says Jared. “Of the 40 medals, 32 have been in international competitions with between 3000 and 4000 wines entered, representing about 950 wineries from around the world.”
The winery offers a Case Club and Wine of the Month Club.
A Few Best-selling wines:
- Tower Red is made from Marechal Foch grapes. It’s dry, fruity, and aged in French oak, giving it a hint of dark chocolate on the finish.
- Wild Turkey Blush is semi-dry Marechal Foch that’s complex & fruity, very clean and offers a hint of Cranberry on the finish.
- Meadow Blush is made from Sweet Leon Millot grapes and is sweet and very fruity, with a very soft, smooth finish and hint of cherry.
- Live music is offered on the deck occasionally. Weddings, corporate events and other private parties are accommodated. The gift shop and tasting room are open daily, Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The winery and vineyard are closed some holidays, so consult rockywaters.net or call (815) 591-9706 before visiting.