Rock Falls Travel Blog

Tradition... Tradition!

Hometown Holidays, Seasonal Sights & Sounds and the 2nd Annual Twin Cities Parade

Tradition… Tradition!

“You may ask, how did this tradition get started? I’ll tell you… I don’t know.” –Tevye Fiddler on the Roof

We all have traditions. Some are community-wide and some, family specific. My family tradition was my mom taking me to musicals, plays, ballets, the opera, the symphony, art exhibits and antiquing (this was eons before American Pickers hit the airwaves) along with guiding me to the many great authors in literature. I am proud to say that my eldest son, Sean, thanked me the other day for passing down my love of books to him. Tradition... Tradition!

My mom opened my mind and heart to art & culture at a young age. So young, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love it. It’s no surprise that when I write about the Holiday traditions in the Sauk Valley Area that my immediate thought is the very first song in Fiddler on the Roof, “Traditions!”  

Family traditions are easier to figure out though. We have a direct line of people to reference. Community –wide traditions are bit more difficult to pinpoint. Other than the obvious, “We’ve always done it that way,” I was hoping to discover how Hometown Holidays and Seasonal Sights & Sounds originated.

Hometown Holidays-Rock Falls, IL

After sending out emails, searching the web, making a few phone calls and networking, I hit pay dirt. Who is this person who passed down the origin and traditions to me, might you ask? Who is our Hometown Holiday Tevye? It was Bethany Bland, the President/ CEO of Rock Falls Chamber. I’m possibly a stone’s throw away from her most day. Internet-you failed me.  We’re fighting.

Bethany explained that Hometown Holidays celebration began 32 years ago by the Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce as a way to welcome the holiday season to the community.  As the years progressed, so did the festival. With the main focus on community togetherness, the festival grew. And grew. And grew to include more vendors, then… additional vendors utilizing outdoor space, more lights, more Christmas Trees,  reindeer, horse drawn wagon ridesprincesses, a parade, bingo and  Santa & Mrs. Claus.

In 1988, Hometown Holidays grew to include the Love Light Ceremony. For almost 30 years, Hometown Holidays has brought the community together to remember loved ones who have (passed away) and honors (living) loved ones with the Love Light Tree. On Friday November 20th at 5:30pm at the Corner of 1st Avenue and 1st Street the City of Rock Falls will officially light their Christmas Tree and remember and honor their loved one at a candle lit ceremony as each name is read aloud. The Love Light Tree is truly an amazing and a community strengthening tradition.

The Rock Falls Chamber encourages everyone, whether you have lived in Rock Falls your whole life or are from out of town, to come be a part of our Hometown Holidays event.  Soak in the spirit of Hometown Holidays, be a part of the community, support a local business, pet a reindeer, ask Santa for something special, wave at floats full of children in the Twin Cities Holiday Parade, buy a craft, ride on a fire truck, ooh and ahh at Christmas trees, win big at Bingo, and listen to wonderful live music.  Each event is special and we can guarantee there is something for everyone! 

Sterling Seasonal Sights & Sounds-Sterling, IL

Sterling, IL. My town of residence. A town that I spent many summers and holidays at my Grandpa & Grandma Loos’ along the Rock River. I thought this was going to be easy. Ha! Not at all.  My Sterling Seasonal Sights & Sounds Tevye was elusive.

Like a winding road, I went from Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce to Sterling Main Street to The Big Red Church to Grummert’s Hardware to SBM. Walking. I did a lot of walking. Although the path was long, the journey was filled with great folks who either had helped to create Seasonal Sights & Sounds in the past and/or are currently helping to create Sterling Seasonal Sights & Sounds this year. But, my questions went unanswered. No one seemed to know the genesis of Sterling Seasonal Sights & Sounds. Determination kicked in. Everyone I talked to, knew that it has been around for years. Everyone I talked to, knew it was a way to bring the community together for an evening of fun, festivities and sales in downtown Sterling. And that is the extent of their knowledge. Honestly-that’s all I knew as well.

Except one business owner.

I’d like to thank the owner of SBM for suggesting I contact Tevye, ahem, I mean Marilyn at Sterling Public Library. Marilyn works in the genealogy section of Sterling Public Library. She was able to find articles dating back to 1992. It appears that back in 1992, the Chamber of Commerce create Sterling Seasonal Seasonal Sights & Sounds to kick off the holiday shopping season. What is interesting is that Sterling Seasonal Sights & Sounds was originally a city-wide event. The senior center provided busing from location to location. Some stops were, Sterling Federal Bank, the Dillon Home, K-Mart, Festival of Trees at the Latin American Club, Farm & Fleet and Northland Mall. I agree with Marilyn, “That is a cool idea.” The rest is history. “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.” –Winston Churchill That key is the microfilm machine at Sterling Library. Unfortunately, it’s not working and they are having difficulty getting it serviced. 

Luck is finally on my side! I attended the final meeting for Sterling Seasonal Sights and Sounds and presented my request to the committee. Pam Martinez of United Way of Whiteside County stated that she has files that will unlock the mystery of Sights & Sounds. It looks like I have two Tevye’s! I finally have a key!

I will update the blog when I have more to this unsolved mystery.

Thrusday November 19th 2015-

 It looks as though I have ended up with 3 Tevye's for Sterling Seasonal Sights & Sounds. After stopping at United Way of Whiteside County and finding out I may be distantly related to Executive Director, Russ Siefken (small world!), I learned that Sterling Seasonal Sights & Sounds did start in 1992. But-Community togetherness during the holiday season started back in the late 1970's. Local business owners gathered together and had holiday parties. They had horse drawn carriages and hosted the parties at different homes. As the years progressed, they wanted to share their holiday tradition with the community. Tradition changed. It grew into to collabrative efforts of the downtown business and the community. 

Twin Cities Parade

This one was easy. I have been attending the parade meetings this year and am very excited about the 2nd year of Twin Cities Parade. The Rock Falls and Sauk Valley Area Chambers of Commerce along with Sterling Main Street and Rock Falls Tourism are delighted to announce the 2nd Annual Twin Cities Holiday Parade. The parade will be held on Saturday, November 21st, beginning at 1:00pm. The feedback received from participants, spectators, and business owners was very positive, so it was decided to continue the joint parade. The directors of the organizations are excited to continue the community collaboration. As in Fiddler on the Roof, traditions change. We have found here in the Sauk Valley Area, they have changed for the good of the communities.

The parade will again start in Sterling and end in Rock Falls at Merrill School with a Children’s Party with Santa at the school. The parade will begin at 4th Avenue and 4th Street. in Sterling near Grandon Civic Center travel on 4th St. to Locust St. turning south on Locust over the 1st Avenue Bridge into Rock Falls. It will continue south on 1st Avenue turning right at West 5th Street toward Merrill school.

We are overjoyed with our joint efforts and hope your business will join in the fun by participating in this year’s parade! For information contact the Sauk Valley Area Chamber at 815-625-2400, Rock Falls Chamber at 815-625-4500, or Sterling Main Street at 815-626-8610.

On Friday, November 20th there will be many activities taking place on both sides of the river. In Sterling, the Seasonal Sights and Sounds Walk will be held from 5pm-late; with the Tree Lighting to be held at the Library Plaza Tree at 7:00pm. There are also plans to “light up” the Sterling Theatre. In Rock Falls, Hometown Holidays will be held from 5:00pm-8:00pm. The Love Light Ceremony will begin at 5:30pm. There many additional activities being planned-please continue to check out these websites for updates: Sterling Main Street , Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce, Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, Visit Rock Falls (Rock Falls Tourism).


What I have found regardless of history, both Rock Falls Hometown Holidays, Sterling Seasonal Sights & Sounds and the Twin Cities Parade brings our communities together and reminds us all what is most important during the holiday season-family and friends. I encourage everyone that reads this blog to come visit Rock Falls & Sterling during our Christmas Walks and Twin Cities Parade. Our busy lives take us from home, to work, to school, to children’s activities back to home every day. Let us all pause for a moment and plan on coming down to Rock Falls & Sterling this weekend Friday December 20th and on Saturday December 21st for family, community and Tradition… Tradition!

Don’t wait. Start your own family tradition this weekend by visiting our festivities.

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