The On the Waterfront Festival began 29 years ago as a single event to celebrate Rockford’s rich cultural heritage and ethnic diversity. Since then, the Festival has grown into a year-round commitment to the Rockford community. The mission of On the Waterfront, Inc., “Community Advancement Through Celebration,” defines the very essence of why we exist. Through celebration, On the Waterfront, Inc. is dedicated to providing opportunities for community celebration, a vital attribute to the health and well-being of the Rockford community.
On the Waterfront, Inc. produces several award-winning Rockford events throughout the year, providing the area an opportunity to come together in celebration of music, art, culture, and community.
A music walk downtown throughout Rockford’s River District, this annual May and October event showcases some of the area’s best establishments and musicians. Walk from establishment to establishment or hop the RMTD trolley and hear a sampling of local award-winning bands and performers. Enjoy Rockford’s music scene and historic downtown! Learn More!
Community Event Support
Not only does OTW produce several of their own events in Rockford, they support and help other local events as well. Each year, OTW lends equipment and expertise to over 30 community events. Some of the events and organizations OTW has assisted over the years include; Rockford Airfest, Pencils in the Park, the Rockford Fire Department Run, Natural Land Institute, Taste of Rockford, 4th of July Committee, Rock Valley College’s Starry, Starry Night Safety Fest, Byron Fest, Magnolia Festival, Greek Festival, Illinois Growth Enterprises events, Rockford Public Library, The ARC, Keeling-Puri Peace Day, Swedish Historical Society, Burpee Museum and Connecting Our Futures. OTW takes great pride in the fact that they are partners with all of these organizations and helps to make so many community events possible.
On the Waterfront
The On the Waterfront Festival continues to be Illinois’ largest street festival! Held annually over Labor Day weekend in downtown Rockford, this high-profile, award-winning, four-day event attracts over 100,000 people each day and covers 25 city blocks in the heart of the River District.
Offering a total entertainment experience, this Labor Day weekend event showcases over 80 performing artists throughout the Festival. Over 240 hours of music in five different venues range from rock, oldies, blues, jazz, big band, gospel, country, children’s entertainment, ethnic, reggae and almost anything in between. Past entertainers have included the Daughtry, Alice Cooper, Styx, Wallflowers, Shawn Colvin, the BoDeans, Blues Traveler, Buddy Guy, Chubby Checker, Cheap Trick, CCR, Mighty Clouds of Joy, the Beach Boys, Maynard Ferguson, Peter Frampton, Jackson Browne, Rascall Flats, Blind Boys of Alabama, John Berry, Uncle Kracker, Willie Nelson, Jethro Tull, and The Staple Singers, just to name a few.
To entice your taste buds, over 30 foods booth serve tantalizing delights from around the world. Pork chop sandwiches, apple fritters, walking tacos, shish-ke-bobs and Polish sausage are just the beginning of our diverse Festival menu which is presented by local not-for-profit agencies and organizations. Interested in sampling new and different craft brews? Domestic beers are complimented with beers from around the world.
On the Waterfront has established more than thirty special events occurring prior to and during the Festival. The ever popular ComEd Kid’s Castle provides a long list of hands-on activities for children, and the Marketplace provides a unique and exotic shopping experience for all. Sporting events include the Waterfront 5K and the Rockford Chariots Wheelchair basketball exhibition games. Hot air balloons, skydivers, face painting, street performers, sand sculpting and more add excitement and fun to On the Waterfront. Learn about the Festival!