Rockton Pelican Fest makes its annual return to Rockton


Photo: Andrea Van Briesen Photography

The 2nd annual Rockton Pelican Fest is a free family-oriented event that celebrates the annual return of the American white pelicans to the Rock River, giving us a chance to learn about these large white birds as they stop here during their spring migration north or west.

The 2nd annual event will be held Saturday, May 21, 2022, 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. in downtown Rockton and at nearby Nygren Wetland Preserve.

The parties responsible for making this party happen: the Village of Rockton, JR Finally Art Studio & Gallery, Natural Land Institute, and Sinnissippi Audubon Society.

Downtown Rockton

In historic downtown Rockton, which dates back to the 1830s, families and individuals can spend time together exploring local shops, restaurants, and outdoor vendor booths. Besides participating in activities and learning more about birds and other wildlife, visitors will find pelican-themed specials at local shops and restaurants.

After the Vine is offering "Pelican Wine Flights" ($25/person) & pelican viewing seating. 

JR Finally Art is hosting the Whitman Post Elementary School Art Show "Fantastic Beasts" in the Red Gallery, along with the art of Monday Art Club, plus a photo op with Jerry (the Rock) Pelican, and plush pelicans, garden rocks, birdhouses, and three art demos.

  • Don Hyson, Wood Burning 10:30 am-Noon
  • Jean Apgar, Watercolor Noon - 1:30pm
  • Beth Wemmer, Pastels 1:30pm - 3pm

DeeDee's Main Street Coffee & Decor will give you a free cookie with each cold brew concentrate drink.

The Gem Shop is offering 20% off sterling silver and Crystal Corner items.

Pick a Dilly Antiques will have specials on birdhouses & garden decor. 

Naturally, Ray's Family Restaurant is offering an "Early Bird" breakfast (when you mention the Pelican Fest) and 10% off lunch. 

Rockton Inn Pub & Grub has specials on BLT & Fries ($10.99), Hot Dog and Fries ($5.99), DOB Cocktails ($5).

And somehow Sugar Britches has created pelican suckers.

Kids will find bird-related activities at many booths, some with a live bird. For example, at Rockton Village Hall at 11 :00 a.m., "Hoo" Haven will present their rescued pelican, Rocky Road. At 1:00 p.m., Jennifer Kuroda, President of the Sinnissippi Audubon Society, will talk about peregrine falcons (which you can watch live on the Nest Cam). Across the street, Talcott Free Library will host kids activities, displays and other information about pelicans and wildlife. And you can have your picture taken with Sherwood the Pelican. Look for Sherwood around the festival grounds.

Other booths:

  • 815 Outside: native seed bombs or pine cone bird feeder
  • "Hoo" Haven: merchandise
  • JR Finally Art S& G: Make 'n Take art projects, including a ceramic owl
  • Natural Land Institute: kids activity
  • Nature at the Confluence: kid's activity
  • Rockford Park District Atwood Center: owl
  • Rockton Remembers: Hononegah Statue Fund
  • Sinnissippi Audubon Society: kid's activity
  • Stateline STEM Academy: pelican robots

Nygren Wetland Preserve

Meanwhile, throughout the festival, Stateline Mass Transit District will be providing free shuttle bus service for the 2.3 mile distance between downtown Rockton (pickup at Main & Prairie Streets about every 20 minutes) and the Nygren Wetland Preserve Wildlife Overlook, 3714 W. Rockton Rd., Rockton.

Visitors to Nygren Wetland will be greeted by an experienced volunteer who can talk about birds and other wildlife. Free guided walking tours with bird enthusiast Rob Clark will start at the Wildlife Overlook at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Formally named the Jack Cook Pavilion, the Wildlife Overlook has a telescope, but bring your binoculars if you have them. That's where the Dianne Nora Nature Trail begins. For early birds who want to see the early birds, Sinnissippi Audubon Society has scheduled an Early Bird Walk for 7:30 a.m. at the Wildlife Overlook.

Sponsors have lined up for Rockton Pelican Fest. The Event Sponsors ($500+) are:

Participating Business Sponsors ($100+) are:

More information about participating businesses and specials, booths and kids activities, and other information will be posted on the organizers' websites: Natural Land Institute, Sinnissippi Audubon Society, and JR Finally Art Studio & Gallery.

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