VIEWPOINT: Downtown revitalization taking shape in Rochelle

I heard an interesting update on the downtown distillery at a recent Rochelle Rotary Club meeting.
Doris and Rick Kennay talked about the downtown venture and what it will offer people in search of a local taste. They will eventually have bourbon, but it takes a few years to produce a finished product. They will also have vodka, rum, gin and other varieties of alcohol that can be produced with less aging time.
Rick said he hopes to draw 12,000 people to the distillery annually. My math skills are not great, but that seems to be 1,000 people per month, or about 250 on a weekend in a typical month.
He’s hoping there will be some bus tours in those numbers, but I imagine the majority of people will be in personal vehicles.
There have been a couple of private events already, and if you happened to drive through downtown Rochelle during one of those events, you might have noticed the street full of parked cars. It looked good.
I hope the branding plans for the parking area on Main Street and Fourth Avenue have not been dropped. I still think a farmer’s market, ice rink and small stage would be great for the area.
The problem will be parking. The solution could be a parking garage. If there is space available along the Union Pacific Railroad line, I think that would be a good location. It would be two blocks from the distillery and one block from the plaza. And yes, people will walk that far to take part in an activity they like.
I know not everyone is happy with the distillery, but I do believe it will bring about a rebirth of downtown Rochelle. When people come to visit and sample the wares, they will be also be looking at shops and eating at local restaurants. The key is to get the right mix to keep the majority of people interested and coming back.  
What is that old saying? A rising tide lifts all boats. That should be true for Rochelle.
Congratulations to Rochelle Township High School speech team members competing in regionals … articulate well my young friends.
Congratulations to Dan Huntley, recently elected president of the Severson Dells Board. Environmental awareness and concern is important to us all.
Congratulations to the From the Heart committee for staging a great night to raise funds for local agencies that serve the poor, the elderly, the abused and the hungry.  
Pitchers and catchers report this week…spring cannot be far behind, so hang in there.

Terry Dickow is a retired elementary school teacher with lots of opinions, some you will like, some you won’t. He can be contacted at [email protected]


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