Time really does fly when you’re having fun, and we’ve had a lot of it over the past decade, writing about our beautiful and fascinating region. Let’s count down through some of our favorite stories during these 10 years. Click on the story title to read it for yourself. (Editor’s Note: Our apologies, but stories from 2004-2010 are unavailable.
She’s performed at the White House and Carnegie Hall, but musical genius and Rockford native Emily Bear is still just a friendly, warm-hearted girl next door.
After the Crown: Judi Ford Nash
It’s been 45 years since Belvidere’s daughter was crowned Miss America. Find out what the honor has meant to her in the years since.
Seven Great Gardens
Rockford’s gardens often garner national attention. NWQ takes you on a tour of each.
Upon her husband’s sudden death, she had a decision to make: Would she continue to run the Rockford Speedway without him? Racing, at the time, was clearly a man’s world.
His acumen and generosity were legendary, during Rockford’s heyday in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The Forgotten Providers From bees to hummingbirds, the pollinator is an essential strand in our web of life, but many kinds are in trouble today.
Rockford Art Museum at 100
Did you know we own more than 1,700 pieces in our permanent collection?
Beloit, Wis., on the March
Surrounding cities can learn a lot from the can-do spirit and collective positive attitude of this formerly down-and-out community.
Prairie Street Brewhouse
Now a favorite hot-spot for special events and dockside dining, this building once sheltered craft brewers, shady characters, local and federal authorities, entrepreneurs and artists. Learn what Loyd and Diane Koch saw in it each time they passed by on their boat.
All Are Welcome Here
For nearly 50 years, Rockford Rescue Mission has been helping people who have nowhere else to turn.
The Real Aviators of Rockford
It was the “Mad Men” era of Saturday night parties and martini lunches for the group of pilots who flew Rockford executives around the nation in the 1950s & ‘60s. A pilot’s wife shares memories about these men and the beautiful aircraft they flew.
They still exist! We tell you where to find them and what challenges their owners face.
The Heritage of Barns
From gable to gambrel roof, and from monitor to salt box shape, each step in the evolution of Midwest barns tells the story of our agricultural evolution.
Meet Ya’ at the County Fair
From Aunt Mae’s prize-winning pickles to big-name singers and the Ferris wheel, there’s a lot to love about our local county fairs.
Why Rick Nielsen Loves His Guitars – All 2,000 of Them
The Cheap Trick star and Rockford native started out playing drums, but once his love affair with the guitar began, he never looked back. Each guitar in his fantastic collection has a story to tell.
Whether you call it Black Hawk or The Eternal Indian, Lorado Taft’s massive work on the banks of the Rock River near Oregon, Ill., has quite a story to tell.
The Rock River: From Ruin to Recovery
Human activity has forever changed the quality of our great river. It will never regain its sparkling quality or the many native species of plants and animals now extinct. Even so, today’s Rock River is far healthier and cleaner than it was before the Clean Water Act of 1972 became the law of the land.
Stronghold Castle: An Orphan’s Tribute
In 1929, Chicago newspaper magnate Walter Strong build a castle near Oregon, Ill., that inspired the imagination of his family for the next three decades.
A Natural Beauty: Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens
Enjoy a sneak preview of the magnificent plans that are coming to life at Sinnissippi Gardens, in celebration of Rockford Park District’s 100th anniversary.
Historic Auto Attractions
This Roscoe, Ill., museum is home to some of history’s most interesting vehicles, including Adolph Hitler’s six-wheeled Mercedes, Eva Peron’s 1950 Rolls Royce, and the 1964 cruiser used in “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Living the Good Life
NWQ talks with 24 residents of our region about why they choose to call this place home.
Lincoln Slept Here. Really.
And Lincoln-Tallman House in Janesville has the pedigree to prove it.
Our Underground Railroad
It was neither under the ground nor a real railroad, but its participants helped thousands of black slaves in America to escape from bondage. Learn about places in our region that were part of an organized system designed to help runaway slaves journey to freedom.
The Roots of a U.S. President
Dixon, Ill., couldn’t be more proud of its hometown son who grew up to be our 40th president. Find out what you’ll see if you go to Dixon to learn about Ronald Reagan. (Pictured above with mother Nelle in 1950.)
Through the Mud Without the Blood
Find out what makes thousands of war re-enactors yearn for the volley of muskets, and why Rockford is a favorite backdrop for these events in the U.S.
On the Fast Track
A surprising number of people from our region have found success in the world of professional racing. Here we talk to three: driver Danica Patrick, pit crew chief Chad Knaus, and ESPN NASCAR reporter Nicole Briscoe.
Follow the Eagles
NWQ looks at how these proud raptors are faring these days, and where you’re most likely to see them this winter. Pictured above is an immature eagle fishing.
If Canyons Could Talk
A crown jewel among its peers, Starved Rock State Park celebrates its 100th anniversary next year. Find out how Illinois naturalists and historians worked together to put this park into public ownership so that our generation, and those who follow us, can enjoy its beauty and learn from the chapters of history it has witnessed.
Pickard China, an American Tradition
The only remaining U.S. manufacturer of fine porcelain china got its start in Edgerton, Wis., 117 years ago, and is still going strong.
The Return of Artisan Cheesemaking
The nearly lost art of high-quality, signature cheesemaking has become profitable again, and southern Wisconsin cheese makers are leading the renaissance.
Black Point Revealed
After seven generations of gracious summer living at the Queen Anne “cottage” on Geneva Lake, the heirs of Chicago brewing magnate Conrad Seipp have donated their treasure-filled home to the State of Wisconsin, which means all of us can visit!
The Difference George Fell Made
Many local residents don’t realize that Rockford native George Fell was a superstar in the world of conservation. He co-founded The Nature Conservancy in 1950, the leading conservation agency in the world today. He also founded the Natural Land Institute.
Desperadoes in Our Own Backyard
While we don’t often think of Illinois or Wisconsin as the “Wild West,” that’s exactly what it was, back in the 1800s, before railroads pushed the edge of the settled U.S. west of the Mississippi River. Meet some of the bandits, horse thieves, sheriffs and posses that roamed our land.
Cycling the Kettle Moraine
Yesterday’s glaciers gifted us with unique and beautiful terrain in southern Wisconsin that’s a paradise for bicyclers to explore.
Journey of the Monarch
Their transformation from striped caterpillar to delicate butterfly is magical. Learn how they’re faring and meet people dedicated to helping them remain a part of our Midwest landscape.
A Woman of Action: Jane Addams
Born and buried near Freeport, Ill., she could have been buried alongside President Woodrow Wilson, had she chosen it. Addams fought tirelessly for rights we now take for granted, such as mandatory childhood education, child labor laws, the woman’s right to vote and workplace safety laws.
The Puck Stops Here: Rockford Icemen
With 13 consecutive state championships under its belt, this remarkable high school hockey team is a living lesson in doing whatever it takes to be the best.
You Bet Your Biffy
The first-ever Beloit International Film Festival in 2006 was a greater success than anyone could have imagined, attracting a prestigious mix of directors, producers and performers. NWQ learned how the whole dream came to life in the first place, and we continue to highlight this impressive event.
Freeport Arts Center
For a city its size, Freeport has a remarkable art collection, with some works dating back more than 4,000 years. It has pieces representing all continents and all time periods, including antiquities from Greece, Egypt and Rome.
It survived the wrecking ball three times and one arson attempt. Today, Memorial Hall is back to the purpose for which it was built in 1903: to honor Winnebago County veterans.
Janesville’s Rotary Gardens
More than 400,000 blooming spring bulbs are only the beginning of spectacular color at these internationally themed gardens that sprawl across 20 acres. A cadre of dedicated volunteers keeps this regional gem abloom.
The Coronado: A Beloved Beauty Gears Up Again
Five years after an $18.5 million restoration and expansion, this grand dame is transitioning into its new role. Learn why Coronado is nationally recognized as one of the finest historic theaters in the U.S.
Professionals Who Ride
Guess who’s ripping down the road on Harleys and Hondas these days? A lot of white collars are poking out from those black leather jackets.
Saving the Cranes
Ten of the 15 known species of cranes, including our own native whooping cranes, are vulnerable to extinction, and the others are declining in numbers. See how a dedicated international organization based in our region is working to save one of the oldest living families of birds.
Historic Jo Daviess County
Life seems to take on extra warmth in the gentle rolling hills of this northwest Illinois county that snuggles next to the Mighty Mississippi and offers hilltop views of Iowa and Wisconsin.
The Bone Collectors
Travel with a local group of wanna-be paleontologists to Hell Creek, Mont., and see what it’s really like to dig for dinosaur bones.
Hog Heaven: The Rebirth of MetroCentre
The 26-year-old downtown arena in Rockford anticipates a future filled with magical moments as its 10,000-seat arena undergoes a $20 million renovation. We returned in late 2011 to highlight the next iteration of this arena.
Still Shining Bright: Yerkes Observatory
Hailed as the birthplace of modern astrophysics, this 1897 observatory in Walworth County, Wis., is home to the largest lens-type telescope in the world. See how its owners, the University of Chicago astronomy and astrophysics department are making use of it today.
A Feeling of Serenity
An up-close look at the way master designer Hoichi Kurisu combines stone, water and plants to create a sense of peace that calms the human soul at Anderson Japanese Gardens. Plans are laid for a 15,000-square-foot visitor center, art gallery and gift shop. Update: We’ve all enjoyed so many special events inside the lovely visitor center that it’s difficult to believe it didn’t exist a decade ago.
Hidden Gems: Our Wetlands
NWQ explores the fragile status and extreme importance of local wetlands and efforts to protect them.
Raising the Roof at Starlight Theatre
Few of us realize how unique the one-of-a-kind retractable roof at Rock Valley College’s Starlight Theatre really is. Designed by Chicago architect and Belvidere native Jeanne Gang, and championed by RVC’s Mike Webb, the theater’s own back story is as fascinating as the shows on its stage.
A look at the last remaining native prairies and savannas, and their significance to our ecosystem and fresh water supply. Meet a prairie enthusiast who’s spent a decade establishing a praire in her backyard.
The Black Hawk War of 1832
A look at the last war fought east of the Mississippi River between indigenous people and the U.S. government, and the only war named for one man: Black Hawk.
Our smooth, flat Rock River is more than just another pretty space for serious rowers.
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence … or is it? NWQ asks several natives why they returned home to raise their families.
The Davids Among Us
In a world of big-box chain stores with volume discounts and other competitive advantages, how does the little guy thrive? We profile five owners of local businesses who have the answer.
The Growth of Medical Businesses
We take a closer look at the way independent group medical practices have been popping up like clover on the local landscape. NWQ asks why medical professionals are striking out on their own – and what it means to their patients.
The First Year: 2004-2005
U of I College of Medicine at Rockford
A Best-Kept Secret. Martin Lipsky, dean, outlines plans for a $24 million addition to the Rockford campus. Update: The school completed an addition that houses not only the National Center for Rural Health Professions and the Rural Medical Education Program, but also a new (in 2010) College of Pharmacy. The school’s current dean, Dr. Alex Stagnaro-Green, says the campus has trained more than 1,700 physicians. That’s more than any other campus in Illinois. We returned to highlight the school’s 40th Anniversary in 2011.
RFD Takes Off
Bob O’Brien, director of Chicago-Rockford International Airport (RFD), says of the rapid improvements he made at RFD, “I’ve done absolutely nothing except change attitudes … I could see that Rockford was sitting on top of a goldmine that no one seemed to know about.” Update: In 2011, O’Brien left Rockford. He now leads the Wisconsin Airport Mangement Association. Airport board veteran Mike Dunn has been leading RFD since January 2012.
Health Care Worries
NWQ asks Rockford hospital CEOs Dr. Bill Gorski (SwedishAmerican Health System), David Schertz (OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center) and Gary Katz (Rockford Health System) what keeps them awake at night. Update: Each system has since formed major partnerships; The same CEOs lead their hospitals today.
Master of Collaboration
NWQ examines the leadership style of Webbs Norman, (now retired) executive director of Rockford Park District. The district earned national recognition and forged 152 partnerships under his direction. Update: Tim Dimke is director today. In 2012, the district received the 2012 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence from the National Recreation and Park Association.