I had no other plans for my birthday weekend besides making the two-hour drive to Rockford, IL to see my best friend. He suggested we could see a baseball game Friday evening. But then he remembered the Rockford City Market was taking place on Madison Street, in the city's downtown.

I've spent quite a bit of time in Rockford, but with pandemic restrictions over the last few years, I never got to experience one of the town's biggest events. No better time than the present.

Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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Most towns have their own "taste" festival over the course of one weekend. The Rockford City Market is every weekend from May to the end of September, with a good portion of it covered by a large, metal pavilion in case of inclement weather. Thankfully, the sun was shining, the food was hot, and the beer was flowing on an ideal summer evening.

Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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The city market is an opportunity for people to get out and experience what their town has to offer. Live music heightens the experience, as people let it be the soundtrack of the night, or pull up a lawn or Adirondack chair and attend the free concert.  On the main stage was the Vince Chiarelli Band, with the acoustic staged helmed by Paul Bronson.

Rockford's Prairie Street Brewing was one of the beverage providers for the evening. Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
Rockford's Prairie Street Brewing was one of the beverage providers for the evening. Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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Be them local shop-owners, restaurants, or breweries, the Rockford City Market also affords several dozen businesses the opportunity to sell their goods to hundreds of people. Rockford's Prairie Street Brewing is always a reliable go-to. My friends and I have been to their brewhouse, a massive two-story warehouse with a bounty of pinball and arcade games in the basement.

I opted for a blonde ale, a refreshing libation that complemented the experience beautifully.

Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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It's not all food and drinks, however. Certain vendors like Bear Moon Soap (based in Oregon, IL) have beauty products for anyone willing to up their skincare game with locally made items.

Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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The food trucks/vendors at any town festival are always among the most popular attractions. It also affords an out-of-towner like myself an opportunity to see what the locals gravitate towards. It wasn't your usual assortment of burgers, corn dogs, and French fry buckets.

The market boasted churros, crepes, and roasted nuts to name a few snacks.

Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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Probably the most consistently crowded was Jolly Wow's BBQ, which offered a unique mix of barbeque favorites and soul food. You know food is good when people will carve out 25 minutes to wait for it in a long, windy line amidst the summer heat.

A boardwalk over the Rock River in Rockford, IL. Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
A boardwalk over the Rock River in Rockford, IL. Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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I don't exactly know how we ended up on a scenic boardwalk overlooking the adjacent Rock River, but we did. I love nooks like this. It's an ideal location for a date or if you're looking to mortgage a few calories from the beer and food.

The Rock River in Rockford, IL. Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
The Rock River in Rockford, IL. Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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We spent nearly two hours at the Rockford City Market. You couldn't have asked for a better evening in general. After a long week, it was the perfect ingredient to unwind. If you're feeling antsy on a Friday after work, I highly recommend making the two-hour trek.

Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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The Rockford City Market happens every Friday evening and runs through September. It is located at 116 North Madison Street in Rockford, IL. You can find more information on the event's Facebook page.

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