Joanne Nold, director of finance and administration for the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, hangs ornaments on a Christmas tree inside City Hall on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — High up on a lift inside City Hall, Joanne Nold tweaked the alignment of a few ornaments near the top of a Christmas tree in the main lobby.

“Can you move it an inch to the left,” Lindsay Arellano said as a group of decorators from the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau worked Friday on the perfect placement.

That kind of attention to detail is common among the hundreds of volunteers who work to make downtown look festive for the city’s biggest holiday festival, Stroll on State.

“The precision, the placement of items, whether it be the ornaments on the tree or the lollipops on the road, everybody cares about the beauty and the artistic vision,” said Arellano, the visitors bureau’s vice president of sales and service. “We know in pictures and memories that will be what’s recorded for families.”

About 60 volunteers, along with visitors bureau employees, started decorating downtown on Friday, but there are hundreds of unpaid helpers that make Stroll on State happen. More decorating continues Saturday in the lead up to the Nov. 27 event, which runs from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“There are so many volunteers that work so many hours,” Arellano said. “They work into the night and they’re here early in the morning. They do things people don’t even know about, working on the smallest detail, just to make this event magical.

“They work so hard for the magic of that one night.”

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Kara Stone and Sage, 4, shop on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, at Bath & Body Fusion, 324 E. State St., Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

Business owners do their part to make downtown festive, too. Case in point is Bath & Body Fusion, 324 E. State St., where the windows are filled with Christmas decorations and store is stacked with locally made gift options, decorations and its normal array of luxury spa and skincare products.

“We just love to bring the magic to downtown Rockford,” said Jenny Ralston, founder and CEO of Bath & Body Fusion. “One of my favorite parts (of the holidays) was always going to Chicago and seeing all the beautiful window displays, and I want to create that magic in Rockford.”

Stroll is a busy night for businesses like Bath & Body because thousands of people drawn downtown for the event will also do some holiday shopping. Ralston encourages people to do their gift-buying early this year, so shoppers don’t run into any issues with the supply shortages many businesses have faced.

Stroll is still looking for volunteers to work on Nov. 27, and you can help decorate downtown again Saturday. Go here to learn more about volunteering.

This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @KevinMHaas or Instagram at @thekevinhaas

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