Posted by: justnaturallyme | August 27, 2013

Rockford Rocks

Fireworks display at Anderson Japanese Gardens

Fireworks display at Anderson Japanese Gardens

To say “Rockford Rocks” is such a cliché but what can I say. Sometimes things come to be a cliché because “everyone says it.” In the case of Rockford, “they gave their all” for Travel Media Showcase (TMS) this year. They started us off with a “Rollicking Riverfront Romp” for our opening dinner and never let up until the last exhausted and satisfied journalist departed through the doors of the hotel.

A Rockford representative was there at the Hilton Garden Inn to greet each travel weary journalists when I arrived on Tuesday. They were still there to bid us farewell when we departed on Friday. Did they get any sleep for those three fun packed days?

I arrived late so barely had time to rush to my room. I did notice it was spacious and very comfortable and filled with thoughtful little gifts from Rockford to welcome me. A quick smooth registration and then on to the bus that whisked us to the banks of the Rock River and a scrumptious reception and dinner at Prairie Street Brewhouse. The pulled pork was delicious as were the cupcakes and icees. We dined to the music of Sensations and Three Good Men.

Wednesday began with breakfast either at our hotel, which does not skimp, or at Giovanni’s next to the conference center. Then we buckled down to some hard work, 15 minute meetings with our choices of Convention and Visitors Bureau representatives. Hectic but pleasant. The mutual goal is to match writers with destinations. then at lunch time, we played hooky and took our designated city fam trips. I chose the history one (no surprise to any of you who know me.) Rockford has such a rich history.

Erlander Home Museum  celebrating Rockford's rich Swedish heritage

Erlander Home Museum celebrating Rockford’s rich Swedish heritage

We headed for the Tinker Cottage and had lunch in the barn. It is a renovated barn so, no, we did not perch on cotton bales and munch on hay and feed corn. We sat a tables and ate a nice lunch while we learned a bit about Robert Tinker and his love for Swiss architecture resulting in a unique Victorian “cottage” and that word is used in the loosest possible interpretation as the home is very large and exquisite. (You will see more about it in the October 2013 issue www.americanroads.net/)

Next stop on our History of Rockford Tour was Erlander Home Museum which celebrates Rockford’s rich Swedish culture. As you browse around Rockford, you notice a lot of the local names end in “son” or “sen” such as “Anderson” or “Neilsen” going back to the old Viking custom of naming such as Lief Erickson, who actually is believed to be the first European to reach America, but got upstaged by Columbus. Lief was the son of Erik Thorvaldsson known in history books as Erik the Red thus Lief Eriksson.

The general store in Midway Village

The general store in Midway Village

The Laurent House is a more modern part of history. It was one of the last Frank Lloyd Wright projects and a home rather than the buildings he is most famous for. The home is unique in that was specifically designed to meet the needs of a physically impaired man and his family.

Our last stop was my favorite, Midway Village. Twenty six buildings, ranging from a hospital to a blacksmith shop with many other businesses and homes represented, offers a vivid picture of what life was like in Rockford during the 19th century. (You will see a lot more of this place aw well in the October Issue of www.americanropads.net/)

Our Wednesday dinner couldn’t have been in a more picturesque setting. They choose Anderson Japanese Gardens. Tinkling water ran through a cleverly planted landscape of timeless beauty. Tables were set on the lawn. Food was of the appetizer variety and there were many choices. Beer, wine and the specialty cocktail were splashing in time to the music provided by Myles Meilsen, a celebrated musician in his own right and the son of Rick Neilsen of the legendary Cheap Trick. Miles and his band, The Rusted Hearts are a talented group in their own right and have no need of a famous father to gain them fans. The surprise highlight of the evening was a spectacular fireworks show that lit up the sky with colorful displays.

Thursday we buckled down and had a full day of meetings split with breaks and a notable networking lunch. For lunch, Joanne, our “fearless leader,” had invited a “world renowned” traveler, Hugh Shoudbe Travelin, (AKA John Percy from Niagara Falls, NY) to explain J. Vero and Associates’ newest venture, TMS Family Travel Conferences. Hugh “strode manfully” to the podium while tearing off his tasteful??? plastic raincoat (just happens to be the kind used on Maid in the Mist at Niagara Falls. Good marketing ploy, John.) and stood before us clad in a Hawaiian shirt and a pair of Bermudas. After the laughter subsided, he spoke of the growing market in family travel.

Miles Neilsen and the Rusted Hearts entertain at Anderson Japanese Gardens

Miles Neilsen and the Rusted Hearts entertain at Anderson Japanese Gardens

By our last appointment speculation was running high as to who was to be next year’s sponsor and where we would be visiting. Hate to admit that as usual, I was wrong, I was betting on Texas. When we arrived at Giovanni’s for the pre-dinner cocktail party, we were greeted with pirate flags and playing cards. Humm? Could be Galveston? They do have a Jean Lafitte history and are on the gulf but the cards? Casinos are possibly in the cards for Galveston but not there yet. Another journalists speculated it had to be Louisiana but both Lake Charles and Jefferson Parish/Gretna were represented at TMS so?

The hors d’oeuvres narrowed it down to Louisiana as they were Cajun Shrimp and boudin. That left us with tow possible destinations.

When the doors to the dinner hall flew open we were greeted with the sounds of a Zydeco band playing Cajun music. It was Lake Charles. We dined and frolicked for an hour or so and then it was back to the room to pack for our post trips. (Next blog will give you a glimpse of my trip to Alton.) And bidding friends “good bye and see you in Lake Charles next year.”

Note: the clichés are intended I tried to use quotes to set off all of them but I think a few slipped past me “Just Naturally”

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