New at the third annual Rockton Pelican Fest


Photo: Andrea Van Briesen Photography

[NLI] American White Pelicans: that's what the Rockton Pelican Fest is about. But the third annual daylong festival on Saturday, May 20, 2023,  has so much more. “We have thirteen booths, five presentations, four bird hikes, two art shows, the Traveling Science Center, great shopping, delicious food, and more lined up for the Rockton Pelican Fest on May 20,” said Jill Golden, one of the organizers of the event, which is centered in historic downtown Rockton, IL and at nearby Nygren Wetland Preserve, a 721-acre wildlife refuge.

The free family friendly event runs 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., plus an Early Bird Hike at 7:30 a.m. at Nygren Wetland Preserve sponsored by Sinnissippi Audubon Society and led by birding expert, Joel Neylon.

New to the fest this year is the Traveling Science Center, a mobile classroom that invites individuals inside to explore exhibits on biodiversity and natural resources. Other new features of the event include a birding challenge where festival attendees can collect up to 20 different bird species cards at 20 participating locations to win a prize, and sidewalk chalk art with artist Melinda Cook.

Presentations will take place at Talcott Free Library, 101 E. Main St. Rockton:

(*indicates new this year) 

12:00 - Peregrine Falcons (Jen Kuroda, Sinnissippi Audubon Society), 

1:00 - How pelicans help reconstruct extinct animals* (Ryan Dewey, Burpee Museum), 

2:00 - Sand Bluff Bird Observatory and bird photography of John Longhenry*; at Rockton Village Hall 

11:00 - “Hoo” Haven with a live pelican

11:45-1:00 - Visit with the pelican

2:30 - Tips for recycling at home* (Corinne Sosso, Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful).

Stateline Mass Transit District will be providing free shuttle bus service from Rockton to the Nygren Wetland Wildlife Overlook (371 W. Rockton Rd.) throughout the festival hours of 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. where visitors will be met by a knowledgeable volunteer to talk about birds and other wildlife. Free guided walking tours of Nygren Wetland, led by birding enthusiast Rob Clark will start at the overlook at 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and at 2:00 p.m. Rob will co-lead with Zach Grycan, NLI’s Director of Stewardship.

Shops and restaurants will have pelican themed specials, outdoor booths will have kids activities and information about their organizations. Whitman Post Elementary School and Rockford Art Guild will have exhibits at JR Finally Art Studio & Gallery. And Sherwood the Pelican will be walking around festival grounds greeting visitors and posing for photos.

The third annual Rockton Pelican Fest is sponsored by Audubon Council of Illinois, Iconic Energy, and Wild Birds Unlimited, as well as 20 participating business sponsors. Rockton Pelican Fest is organized by the Village of Rockton, JR Finally Art Studio & Gallery, Natural Land Institute, and Sinnissippi Audubon Society.

For more information about the Rockton Pelican Fest, visit,, and on Facebook look for Rockton Pelican Fest.

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