ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — After a driver killed 5 people and injured 43 more during a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Rockford’s Stroll on State organizers say they’re boosting their security protocols this year.
Officials say safety and security has always been at the forefront of planning for the festival, which takes place annually in downtown Rockford on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Zachery Lange, a Loves Park resident, said Stroll on State is a Christmas tradition he looks forward to every year.
“It’s always been something my family have always tried to do, because we’ve always been a tight knit family and we always tried to do things to do as a unit. It’s something we try to do every year. We like to take pictures in front of the Christmas tree and all that stuff,” he said.
But, he said the Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy has left him with some concerns.
“It makes me personally kind of concerned a little bit, for other people’s safety, because you can only so much as a person and as a city,” Lange said.
Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau president John Groh said additional layers of security are being put in place this year.
“There will be protocols in place that people will see. They’ll see officers on the street and there’s going to be things that they don’t see, that are just there to protect the crowd and give assurances that everything has been done, that we can reasonably do, to keep guests safe,” Groh said.
Lange says he’s still planning on going to this year’s event, but he says he’ll be extra vigilant since he’s bringing his 2-year-old son Karsyn for the first time.
“I look around my shoulder every 20 seconds. I’m turning my head making sure everything around me and, especially with my girlfriend and my son, I always make sure they are in arms length. If anything happens, I’m right there and we stay on the side walk,” he said.
Lange hopes the family tradition will continue many more years.
“When my son turns 18 and he comes and asks me to go to Stroll on State with him, I want to be able to keep doing those things as long as we can,” he said.
Groh says Stroll on State will announce its new safety features some time this week.
The event budget currently lists 35 officers, but Groh said people can expect there to be extra patrols out on the street, along with additional barricades. That could impact the flow of traffic in the area.
Groh encouraged people to check out the Stroll on State website to find more information.