Recreation opportunities abound in our region! Here are a few of the best our area has to offer.
MLK Scholarship Breakfast & Oratorical Contest
Jan. 14, 9 a.m.-noon. Enjoy a full breakfast while high school seniors compete in an oratorical contest for college scholarships, with special performances by Diana Cole and a keynote address from Dr. Howard Spearman, Associate Vice President of Rock Valley College. Radisson Hotel & Conference Center-Rockford, 200 S. Bell School Road, Rockford, (779) 221-6336, mal1975.wixsite.com.
Jan. 12 & 13, 21, 26 & 27, Th. 9-11:30 a.m., Fri. noon-3 p.m. & 6-9 p.m., Sat. 1-4 p.m. & 6-9 p.m. Skis and instructions are included in this adventure. Hot chocolate awaits afterwards. Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron Forest Preserve, 7993 N. River Road, Byron, Ill., (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Jan. 14, 6-9 p.m. Enjoy a beautiful, brisk night with stars shining bright overhead. The Rock County Ice Age Trail chapter hosts a candlelight ski/hike throughout a 1.25-mile loop. Refreshments are available afterwards. Storrs Lake, 100 W. Madison, Milton, Wis., (608) 302-1885, iceagetrail.org.
Royal Winter Ball 2017
Jan. 15, 4-8 p.m. The night is full of themed food, dancing and live-singing performances. The beloved characters from Beauty & the Beast take your breath away with a talented performance. The Pavilion at Orchard Ridge Farms, 6786 Yale Bridge Road, Rockton, onceuponadreamperformances.com.
Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition
Jan. 18-21, Wed.-Sat., viewing hours sunrise until 10:30 p.m. Awards ceremony Sat. 1 p.m. As many as 70,000 visitors view these massive works of snow art each year. Teams from around the state compete for the right to represent Illinois in the 2018 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition. Sinnissippi Park, 1401 N. 2nd St., Rockford, (815) 987-8800, ilsnowsculpting.com.
Bald Eagle Bus Tour
Jan. 21, 8 a.m.-noon. Take a four-hour bus tour to observe wintering bald eagles along the Upper Mississippi River. Best Western, 9923 U.S. 20 West, Galena, (815) 594-2306, eaglenature.com.
Winter Wilderness Weekend
Jan. 21, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Hike to see spectacular icefalls, eagles and beautiful scenery while learning about the history and geology of Starved Rock State Park. Starved Rock State Park Visitors Center, 2668 E. 873 Road, Oglesby, Ill., (800) 868-7625, starvedrocklodge.com.
Arftic Art for Animals
Jan. 21, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Browse more than 50 exhibitors. Animal-related vendors and artists showcase their unique items for people and their animal friends alike. Pontiac Convention Center, 2809 N. Pontiac Dr., Janesville, (608) 757-3171, friendsofnoah-wi.org.
Jan. 27, 6-7:30 p.m. Owls are one of the only birds that nest in the dead of winter, which makes this a great time of year to listen for them. Find evidence of screech, barred and great horned owls on the preserve. Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron Forest Preserve, Byron, Ill., (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Beloit Winterfest 2017
Jan. 27-29, Fri. 8 a.m.-Sun. 5 p.m. Prepare for a festival packed with family fun. Daily activities include a sledding hill and cross-country ski trails. Snow shoes are available for rent. Throughout Beloit, (608) 361-1377, beloitrecreation.com/Beloit-winterfest/.
Jan. 28, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Take a short hike to the top of Starved Rock for live eagle viewing, or join the park naturalist for a guided eagle viewing tour. Starved Rock State Park Visitors Center, Oglesby, Ill., (800) 868-7625, starvedrocklodge.com.
Winterfest & U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition
Jan. 28-Feb. 12. Lake Geneva’s popular winter celebration is back, featuring music, magic, refreshments, activities, helicopter rides, shopping and dining. The U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition runs Feb. 1-4. Riviera Park, 330 Broad St., Lake Geneva, (262) 248-4416, visitlakegeneva.com.
First Fridays in Downtown Rockford
Feb. 3, 5 p.m. Every First Friday brings Rockford a monthly evening of art, music and shopping. Downtown Rockford, (779) 537-5319, facebook.com/FirstFridaysRockford.
Feb. 3, 9-11, 18, 23 &24. Th. 9-11:30 a.m., Fri. noon-3 p.m. & 6-9 p.m., Sat. 6-9 p.m. Skis and instructions are included in this adventure. Hot chocolate awaits afterwards. Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron Forest Preserve, Byron, Ill., (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Frozen Assets Festival
Feb. 3-5. Participate in a weekend of free activities on Lake Mendota and at The Edgewater hotel. Ice skate, learn about the lake, make a snowman and watch special performances on The Edgewater’s rink. Donations support efforts to protect and improve water quality in local lakes, rivers and wetlands. The Edgewater, 1001 Wisconsin Place, Madison, Wis., (608) 255-1000, cleanlakesalliance.org.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Birthday Party
Feb. 4, time TBA. Celebrate the 150th anniversary of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birth in Wisconsin with a rousing party. The event features crafts, snacks and fun activities inspired by the Little House books. Old World Wisconsin, W372 S9727 Wisconsin 67, Eagle, Wis., (262) 594-6301, oldworldwisconsin.wisconsinhistory.org.
Special Olympics Illinois Winter Games
Feb. 7-9. Games begin Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Cheer on more than 400 athletes as they go for the gold in Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Chestnut Mountain Resort, 8700 W. Chestnut Road, Galena, (630) 942-5610, soill.org/event/winter-games/.
Feb.10-12. Join a weekend of fun with pond hockey, a 5K run through the beautiful streets of downtown Burlington, a Red Hot Chili contest between area restaurants and a “Best Hot Chocolate” competition. Echo Lake, 589 Milwaukee Ave., Burlington, Wis., (262) 763-6044, burlingtonchamber.org.
Feb. 10-12. Meet giant malamutes, enjoy a cozy bonfire while watching the Fire and Ice Glow Show, play snow games, watch ice carving and more. Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa and Nordic Center, 444 Eagle Ridge Dr., Galena, (815) 777-5000, eagleridge.com.
Grapes & Hops
Feb. 10, 6-10 p.m. Enjoy a wide selection of wine and beer complimented by spectacular hors d’oeuvres. Learn proper tasting techniques & wine pairings from professionals with “celebrity” pourers. Relax and mingle with friends while listening to soothing acoustic music. Reservations preferred. The Armory, 10 S. High St., Janesville, (608) 755-4123, kanduindustries.com.
Freeze Fest & Polar Plunge
Feb. 11, all day. Participate in the polar plunge, chili cook-off and more. Proceeds benefit the Special Olympics. Throughout Whitewater, Wis., (262) 473-0121, whitewater-wi.gov.
Bald Eagle Bus Tour
Feb. 11 & 25, 8 a.m.-noon. Take a four-hour bus tour to observe wintering bald eagles along the Upper Mississippi River. Best Western, Galena, (815) 594-2306, eaglenature.com.
Ice Golf Classic
Feb. 11, 10 a.m. Enjoy this outdoor event where teams of four play golf with tennis balls on the ice at the Midtown Marina. Bring your clubs and sleds and have a good time on the 18-hole course. Sub-par golfers welcome. Mid-Town Marina, 285 5th St., East Dubuque, Ill., (563) 582-6211, stmarkyouthenrichment.org.
Roaring ‘20s Gala
Feb. 11, 7 p.m. Quickly gaining reputation as the “party of the year,” the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra Gala presents the opportunity to experience live orchestra music and dancing to an energetic swing band. This year, be ready to step back in time and enjoy music from the 1920s. Hors d’oeuvres, wine and beer, a silent auction and plenty of chances to dance the Charleston await. Riviera Ballroom, 812 Wrigley Dr., Lake Geneva, (262) 359-9072, lakegenevaorchestra.org.
Feb. 12, 2 p.m. Learn about beekeeping techniques, tools of the trade and everything else there is to know about honey bees. Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron Forest Preserve, Byron, Ill., (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Rockford Boat, Vacation & Fishing Show
Feb. 17-19, Fri. 3-8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Whether you’re interested in buying a fishing boat, pontoon, runabout or personal watercraft, looking for the perfect charters, guides, lodging, or just need to buy the right fishing tackle, this show has what you’re looking for. Mercyhealth Sportscore Two and Indoor Sports Center, 8800 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, Ill., (815) 997-1744, landroproductions.com.
Rockford Home Show
Feb. 24-26, Fri. 3-8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. See what’s new for your home and garden. The show provides new products, services, ideas, concepts and expertise on interior and exterior design. Mercyhealth Indoor Sports Center, Loves Park, Ill., (815) 871-7469, showtimeproduction.net.
Galena Sock Hop
Feb. 24, 7-11 p.m. Join for two nights of dancing in downtown Galena, with live music and dance workshops. Turner Hall, 115 S. Bench St., Galena, galenaswingdance.com.
Feb. 25. Marvel at snow sculptures during the day, then enjoy a parade that begins at 5:30 p.m. Collect beads upon beads. Main Street, Galena, (779) 214-0003, galena.org.
Guided Walk at Byron Forest Preserve
Feb. 25, 9-10:30 a.m. Having a healthy woods and prairie draws many birds to the area. Find places where birds roost and feed, and talk about the importance of diverse habitats. Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron Forest Preserve, Byron, Ill., (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Feb. 27-March 1, begins Mon. 9 a.m. Dine, sew, relax and explore the local town on this three-day retreat. Starved Rock Lodge, Rts. 178 & 71, Utica, Ill., (800) 868-7625, starvedrocklodge.com.
Spring Evening Bridal Show
March 2, 6-9 p.m. Visit one-on-one with vendors showcasing bridal gowns, tuxedos, flowers, photographs, reception locations and more. Pontiac Convention Center, 2809 N. Pontiac Dr., Janesville, (608) 755-4123 ext. 399, besteventscatering.com.
March 3-5, Fri. 10 a.m.- Sun. 5 p.m. Enjoy captivating speakers, creative workshops and family-friendly activities – all related to dinosaurs. Burpee Museum of Natural History, 737 N. Main St., Rockford, (815) 965-3433, burpee.org.
First Fridays in Downtown Rockford
March 3, 5 p.m. Every First Friday brings Rockford a monthly evening of art, music and shopping. Downtown Rockford, (779) 537-5319, facebook.com/FirstFridaysRockford.
Big Nut Open Snowboard Competition
March 4. Compete in big air, rail jam and slopestyle snowboarding. Chestnut Mountain Resort, Galena, (815) 777-1320, chestnutmtn.com.
Chili Cook-Off & Spaghetti Dinner
March 4, 6:30-9 p.m. Area chefs and wanna-be-hot-shots create and name delectable concoctions of chili. The annual contest has “celebrity” judges and People’s Choice awards. If chili isn’t your thing, enjoy a spaghetti dinner, cash bar and live music. Creekside Place, 102 Maple St., Evansville, Wis., (608) 882-0598, ecp-wi.org.
Rockford RV, Camping & Travel Show
March 10-12, Fri. 2-8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Discover the best brands, deals and prices on new 2017 RV models. The show has fifth wheels, travel trailers, class A, B & C motorhomes, pop-ups, toy haulers and 4-wheelers. Also take advantage of one-on-one time with campground and lodging representatives to help plan your next exciting trip. Merchyhealth Sportscore Two and Indoor Sports Center, Loves Park, Ill., (815) 997-1744, vacationlandrv.com.
Celtic Pub Crawl
March 11. A kids’ fun run begins at 8:30 a.m. while the YMCA Celtic “Run Before You Crawl” begins at 9 a.m. A pub-crawl with live music and entertainment is to follow. Doyle’s Irish Pub, 1301 15th Ave., Monroe, Wis., (608) 328-4404, celticcrawl.com.
Chocolate Extravaganza/Home & Garden Show
March 11, registration 8-9:30 a.m., judging 10:30 a.m., home show 9 a.m.-3 p.m. See how your best chocolaty recipes stack up against the competition, open to amateurs only. After the judging is complete and the winners named, attendees can sample all the entries. Held in conjunction with a home & garden show. Burlington High School, 400 McCanna Parkway, Burlington, Wis., (262) 763-6044, burlingtonchamber.org.
Shred Fest at The Mountain Top
March 11. Partake in a day of fun at The Mountain Top Ski Hill, with a rail jam, big air competition, pond skim, giant slalom races, obstacle courses, plus a live DJ all day. Proceeds benefit Chill Chicago, a youth development program that uses snowboarding to teach life skills and increase self-esteem. Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva, (800) 558-3417, grandgeneva.com.
Shamrock Shimmy 5K and Kids’ Fun Run
March 11, 8-9 a.m. Run down Galena’s historic Main Street in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Then, enjoy a parade. Main St., Galena, galenaarc.org.
Sips & Sounds
March 11, 6-10 p.m. Join Agrace’s signature wine and beer-tasting event. Guests enjoy a delicious sampling of hors d’oeuvres from more than a dozen local eateries, spectacular wines and beers from Wisconsin’s premier wineries and brewers, live music by Gary the Band and a sensational silent and live auction. Pontiac Convention Center, Janesville, (608) 327-7239, agrace.org.
Farm Toy Show
March 12, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Walk amongst farm toys, collectibles, layouts and vendors. Sponsored by Monroe FFA Alumni. Monroe High School Performing Arts Center, 1600 26th St., Monroe, Wis., (608) 214-4817, travelwisconsin.com.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade/Great Gaelic Gala
March 17, 5:00 p.m. Witness a festive parade with bag pipers, Irish charm and plenty of green, led off by the Irish flag. Downtown Historic Courthouse Square, 1016 16th Ave., Monroe, Wis., (608) 328-4023, mainstreetmonroe.org.
Wine Lovers’ Weekend
March 24, 6-8 p.m. Be part of the largest indoor wine tasting event in the state of Illinois, featuring more than 40 distributors from across the United States and more than 300 varieties of wine and spirits. Galena Convention Center, 900 Square Dr., Galena, (815) 747-6335, wineloversweekend.com.
Swing Into Spring Dance
March 25, 7-10 p.m. This dance features music by the finest all-female big band from Madison: Ladies Must Swing. The evening also includes a cash bar, raffle and silent auction. Pontiac Convention Center, Janesville, (608) 754-5333, echojanesville.org.
Lake Geneva Festival of Wine
March 31-April 2. Wine-lovers are welcome to participate in an entire weekend of vintage entertainment. On Friday, enjoy dinner with an abundance of wine, then partake in the main event, a grand tasting, on Saturday. There are also informative seminars and room packages. Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, Lake Geneva, (800) 558-3417, grandgeneva.com.