ROCKFORD — Opening dates for Rockford City Market and local farmers markets are being pushed back amid concerns about the new coronavirus.
The pandemic is causing other summer events to be called off or postponed, too. Already, Alpine Kiwanis Brat Days has been canceled, Harvard Milk Days postponed and Rockford’s Fourth of July celebration slimmed down.
"It’s smart of event planners to evaluate their plans and consider when they might be able to hold large events and adjust accordingly," John Groh, president and CEO of the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said in an email.
"When stay-at-home orders are lifted and once we feel it’s okay to gather in groups, I fully expect our traditions will return — parades, festivals, concerts, baseball games and more." He said that likely will occur slowly, and that over time, crowd capacity limits will increase.
In the meantime, he said, event planners should keep in mind that even after authorities relax the rules for public gatherings, "People will have to grow comfortable being in larger crowds or group settings, and I expect that will take awhile."
Organizers of the events listed here say plans may change based on updated local, state and federal guidelines for crowd size and social distancing and other measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, the potentially deadly respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus. A stay-at-home directive is in place in Illinois through April 30.
City Market: The 9-year-old downtown Friday event that last year drew a record 111,160 visits will start June 5, three weeks later than planned, said Cathy McDermott, executive director of the Rock River Development Partnership, which runs City Market. The start of the group’s North End Market will be delayed until June 6.
The layouts will be spread out to provide room for social distancing, with at least 6 feet between booth spaces. Last year, City Market attracted more than 70 vendors. This year, vendors will be given guidelines for packaging products, wearing gloves and creating social distance.
Booths will be staggered where possible, McDermott said. RAMP has offered use of its parking lot for vendors at the beginning of the season until the RAMP staff moves back after renovations are complete, she said. It is unclear whether additional space will be needed.
More hand-washing stations will be offered throughout the markets. And organizers are studying options to limit the number of visitors allowed on the market grounds at one time, McDermott said.
Rockford City Market attendance
• Edgebrook market and music: The Edgebrook Farmers’ Market is expected to open June 5 instead of May 6 in the parking lot of the shopping center at Alpine and Highcrest roads. Music on the Mall, which features local performers on Fridays, is expected to open as scheduled on June 5.
• Rockford Midtown Market: The Saturday morning market had been set to begin a few weeks ago but will now open on June 6. It is held in the Rockford Public Schools administration building parking lot on Seventh Street.
• Fourth of July: Organizers are planning a scaled-down fireworks show, and they’ll decide by the end of the month whether the parade is still on, said Ted O’Donnell, co-chairman of the Rockford 4th of July Committee.
Major donors who have given in years past say they can’t give to the privately funded event this year because of economic damage caused by the pandemic, O’Donnell said. It has cost about $85,000 to put on a typical daylong celebration, including $60,00 for fireworks. O’Donnell said the group won’t be able to provide the usual 30-minute, 5,000-shell show, and likely will cut it to 20 minutes.
This year’s event will be dedicated to "heroes, from doctors to delivery workers, from nurses to grocery clerks," O’Donnell said. O’Donnell himself recovered from the virus.
Tom Luepkes, co-chair of the event, said in an email that the holiday celebration is important: "Our community, Americans in general, are going to need something to look forward to, some sort of tradition that can honor everyone living through this time in the USA."
• Brat Days: Alpine Kiwanis Brat Days has been canceled for 2020. The group raises funds by serving brats and other items at several locations, with music provided at some. It was scheduled for July 17-18.
• Milk Days: Harvard Milk Days has been rescheduled from the weekend of June 5 to Oct. 16-18. The festival features a two-hour parade, a carnival and other activities.
• County fairs: All fairs in the state are still scheduled to take place this summer, said Jack Ratcliffe, vice president of the Boone County Fair in Belvidere and a director of the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs. The Boone County Fair, which typically draws more than 200,000 visitors, is set for Aug. 11-16.
• Beer festivals: The Screw City Beer Festival in the Riverview Ice House parking lot downtown is still set for Sept. 15, but organizers are waiting until May to make further decisions. "Fingers crossed that we can do it this year in some capacity, whether we scale it down or as is," said Chris Wachowiak, co-chair of the event for which attendance had been capped at 2,500 people. About 50 breweries are on tap. Tickets for the event go on sale in June.
• Juneteenth: A decision will be made after April 30 about the event typically held at Sinnissippi Park on June 19 to celebrate freedom and achievement. Tommy Meeks, chairman of the Juneteenth Celebration, said the group is considering hosting a Juneteenth celebration through a local channel on Comcast from June 19-21 featuring musicians who have submitted videos. That’s if the group determines a live celebration won’t be feasible. Juneteenth in past years has drawn from 800 to 2,000 attendees. Check the website for updates at Juneteenth1865.com.
Georgette Braun: firstname.lastname@example.org; @GeorgetteBraun