Magic and spirit: Rockton Christmas Walk 2023


The Gingerbread Girl and the Nutcracker greeted visitors on Friday night and throughout the weekend of Rockton Christmas Walk.

Rockton was filled with magical holiday spirit during the 39th annual Rockton Christmas Walk which started Dec. 1 and concluded on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023.

Settlers Park came alive with sounds of the season sung by the Willowbrook Middle School choir.

Prior to the inaugural lighting of Rockton's newest, stunning Christmas tree, Christmas Walk organizer Tricia Diduch welcomed everyone and gave special thanks to this year's sponsors, sending a special note of gratitude to the 2023 Grand Marshall Sponsor,  Benchmark Exteriors.

As they wobbled around the park, a Christmas tree, a nutcracker, and a gingerbread character (all in an inflatable form) gave warm but silent greetings.

Village President John Peterson said, “It has been a dream of mine for a long time to have displays and to have a special tree lighting at this park.” Peterson gave special recognition to Diduch for the many hours of hard work and dedication to this event.

All around Settler's Park, eye-catching lighted displays have been created by local businesses, or organizations, all ready to spark Christmas spirit. The displays will remain lit each evening through Jan. 6.

Following Friday evening's lighting at Settlers Park, the Rockton American Legion (American Center) welcomed a full house to a sold out Dueling Pianos show. Dueling Pianos featured a duet of two male piano players who played different genres of music while taking requests. One number was “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”

The winner of the ugly sweater contest donned a Santa themed outfit.

Rockton bars welcomed huge crowds to the sixth annual Ugly Sweater Pub Crawl. Friends gathered and caught up with each other. Participants had a chance of winning one of seven prizes.

Santa Claus's first visit was at the Lions Club pancake breakfast at the American Legion. As he entered, an exciting introduction spurred on lots of applause. Santa listened to wishes of little ones and young at heart.

Talcott Library hosted their annual book sale. Around town, Rockton United Methodist Church, Rockton Township Historical Society, and the Universalist Universalist Congregation of Rock Valley had bake sales, craft and unique sales.

Miss Andrea's Dance Factory did well as they sold baked goods and sang Christmas carols, all in front of DeeDee's Coffee and Decor.

Little ones wrote a letter to Santa at Financial Advisor Brenda Brugger's office. After letters were finished they were placed in a mailbox outside the office. Each will receive a return letter from Santa.

“Letters to Santa look at Christmas through the eyes of a child,” Brugger said.

Two horse drawn wagon rides let visitors see the sights of the season.

Santa made his second stop at the Rockton Village Hall on Saturday, where parents captured memories through photos.

One hour of holiday songs featured the River City Sound Chorus Sweet Adelines inside After the Vine.

A barbershop chorus blended harmony and melodies outside and inside of Sugar Britches, and in various locations downtown, sending chills while sharing their talent.

At Jill Rae Finally Art, guests could paint a charming plaster figurine, either a reindeer, snowman or a gnome.

The Village Green Park came alive on Saturday night as the Whitman Post Choir shared Christmas songs with the public prior to a special ceremony.

Katie Cronin is fondly remembered by a grateful community for her many years of leadership in decorating the Village Green Park with the "Our Town Committee."

Cronin’s family came together to pay tribute: six of Katie's children and six grandchildren with a total of 19 who traveled from seven states, including spouses, girlfriends or boyfriends . 

Katie's granddaughter Sarah Oberreiter read a dedication poem in loving memory. Immediately afterward, Katie's Tree was lit. All of the kids who were at the park were invited to hang ornaments and to help the family decorate the tree.

This year marks the 20th year since Katie Cronin's passing. In her loving memory and honor, her family has sponsored luminaries, and are planning to keep this tradition going for years to come. Two stations were available to pick up luminaries, one at the Village Hall and the other at the Walt Williamson Pool at Village Green Park, allowing Rockton residents to line their sidewalks in beautiful lights.

The Cronin family would like to extend special thanks to everyone who came to the event and add a special note of gratitude to all of the people who helped to decorate Katie's Tree at the Village Green Park.

Making this year extra special was a proposal by Katie's tree by her grandson Adam from Ohio to his now-fiancée Carin.

Saturday night, thousands of spectators lined the parade route anxiously awaiting for the Lighted Christmas Parade. Lighted floats generated lots of color and splendor with businesses, youth organizations, local media, churches, Rockton Pride, horses and ponies, SMTD, and spectacular floats, some with a bubble machine or special effects. The Grinch, Frosty, and other beloved characters rode on floats, delighting all in the 50 minute parade. Rockton-Roscoe News staff and friends passed out newspapers and chocolate. Santa waved happily as he rode in the fire ladder truck at the end of the route. 

The Wimpy's Fund Auction took place online and in person after the parade. The Rockton American Legion was full of baskets and cool pieces to bid on in support of the Rockton Lions Club, giving back to area families in need with Christmas presents, clothing, and food.

Across the river, Macktown Living History hosted 19th century ornament making in the morning and a lighted walk to the Mack House in the evening, where they celebrated with a bonfire, Christmas carols, and refreshments.

Hot cocoa lovers had a real treat as they tasted different flavors of hot chocolate from five downtown locations at the Hot Cocoa Crawl. Each participant purchased a commemorative mug and had the chance to vote for a favorite flavor. The winner was The Mix.

New this year was a family friendly scavenger hunt. Clues were given on cleverly worded posters around town, starting at the Village Hall. Ornaments that read "39th Annual Christmas Walk" were given to the first 500 participants, courtesy of Members Alliance Credit Union.

All weekend, local businesses were open and welcomed a steady flow of customers, including Anna Pipitone’s pop up shop for Simply Sweet.

Rockton's 39th Annual Christmas Walk started the season off in full spirit as they created Christmas magic.

Dancers from Miss Andrea's Dance Factory sold baked goods and sang Christmas carols on Saturday.
Julie and Kane Evans saw Santa at the Village Hall.
Faith Fabyan created a keepsake at Jill Rae Finally Art.
Brynlee visited with Santa at the Rockton Lions Club pancake breakfast.
Luke, Lisa, Tammy and Shery took part in the hot cocoa crawl on Sunday afternoon.
The Gary J. Bach Agency and Envoy Mortgage co-sponsored Dueling Pianos.
Horse drawn wagon rides were a popular attraction at the Rockton Christmas Walk.
A barbershop chorus filled Main Street and buildings with Christmas songs.
Luke, Audrey and Eliza Weerda wrote letters to Santa.
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