Those attending the New Year's Eve event in Rockford enjoyed music by Howl at the Moon. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
Those attending the New Year's Eve event in Rockford enjoyed music by Howl at the Moon. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

ROCKFORD – Over 300 Rockford area residents gathered at the Community Center on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the “Rockford Bicentennial Celebration.” The sell-out crowd was energetic and excited about the community’s 200th celebration which will be commemorated in various phases throughout 2020.

Tuesday’s event featured appetizers by RCO Catering, various drinks supplied by incoming business Second Crossing Brew Co., fireworks at midnight sponsored by RADC and a music concert provided by “Howl at the Moon,” dueling pianos.

Things started rolling when the energetic band sang the well-known Beatles Classic, “I Saw Her Standing There,” and lasted for the next three hours.

One of those in awe over the entire idea of a Bicentennial Celebration was veteran resident and businessman Dan Henkle, who managed Henkle Insurance Agency for 30 years.

Henkle, endowed with a quick sense of humor, now 80-years-old, said that he came to Rockford in 1939. With New Year’s Eve still happening in 2019, those around Henkle laughed when they realized that their community friend actually meant that his “coming” in 1939 was his birth.

“This is a new thing for us,” said Henkle. “Two hundred years is a long time. A lot of things have happened during that time. And we are going to be using a lot of ways of celebrating these days.”

Henkle spelled out such activities as a tractor pull with 80 tractors, a plowing contest, parade, and 170 custom cars as a part of a weekend in June. Other celebrating factors will be the sale of Rockford Ketchup bottles, a Johnny Appleseed Portrayal, Barn Quilt Tours in early June, War of 1812 presentation, and dedication of a Rockford Veteran’s Memorial and Memorial Day.

“If this turnout is any indication of what’s to come, we are going to have an exciting year,” said Henkle.

Twyla Hayes, one of the main planners in the Bicentennial Grand Celebration said that one of the main goals in the celebration and Bicentennial has been to mesh both young and old alike in specific ways that all generations could enjoy the entire year.

“We felt that it was really important to get something that we felt the younger generation could attend and enjoy,” said Hayes. “Things over the rest of the year will be done well.

“We have a very great community to just enjoy,” continued Hayes. “We want people to know that everything we do this year is going to be of high quality.”

“This is going to be a very eclectic time for young and old alike,” commented Deb Call. “Our small community is a big family. We are really looking forward to all of this. It is a once in a lifetime happening for all of us.”

Janet Riley noted that plans for this year have been underway since 2014.

“The time has come when we are going to celebrate our 200th anniversary,” said Riley. “We’ve been planning a long time for this and suddenly it’s here.”

“I am proud of this celebration,” said Clerk/Treasurer Lisa Kuhn. “I am proud to live in such a family-friendly village.”