The Rockford non-profit group 'South West Ideas for Today and Tomorrow,' or SWIFTT, is trying to breathe new life into an area they say is sometimes overlooked.
By encouraging everyone to explore Rockford's roots, SWIFTT hopes to bring in more visitors into the city's southwest side.
Rudy Valdez's dream is to see south west Rockford restored to it's former glory. He says, "South Main is being revitalized, and the Morgan Street bridge is going to be completed very soon. And South Main, they're going to be widening it, they're going to be beautifying it. it's going to be the primer gateway once again like it had been the 50's."
But he says the construction on those projects has been preventing people from traveling to southwest Rockford. As SWIFTT board vice president, he is trying to change that.
By offering free admission to Klehm Arboretum, Tinker Swiss Cottage, and the Ethnic Heritage Museum on Sunday, Valdez hopes to encourage area residents to visit.
"I've always lived here, never been to the tinker cottage, never been to the ethnic heritage museum," says Susan Vincent, after her very first time tour of the Tinker Swiss Cottage.
Nick Lassandro brought his family to visit Tinker Swiss Cottage, "We hadn't been here in a long time and we wanted to make sure that the boys had seen these so they can take their kids, so we could keep this going from generation to generation."
Everyone who visited the three destinations not only got in for free, they also were given a certificate worth $8, good towards food at seven area eateries.
"And that'll be a nice way to try them out, some place I might not have gone otherwise," says Vincent.
Thanks to the event, Luichis Hot Dogs on Montague Street saw steady lines nearly all day long. The restaurant's owner, Antonio Escobar, says, "It brought in a lot of new faces, I really hope to have them back."
"And when you help the businesses you help the whole neighborhoods, and help the community as a whole," says Valdez.
SWIFTT leaders say they may hold more free days like this one in the future.
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