Our cleanup and planting effort – what we call Spruce-Up Day – is scheduled for Saturday, May 11, 2019. We anticipate hundreds of citizens joining in on this big job. To help with the work, we have secured commitments from local businesses to supply equipment and resources. To guard the safety of our teams, we are asking the City of Rockford for a police presence to manage traffic.

What we accomplish on Spruce-Up Day is just the beginning.

  • We plan to continue coordinating community adoption of this beautification project throughout the summer and fall of 2019 – and for years to come.
  • We also plan to build a fund so we can replace the Civil War statue that was at the northeastern corner of the intersection. What was put in its place, after this statue was moved to Memorial Hall, is a public art installation on loan until 2020.

Here are details on what we’re looking to do.

Map of work area_Beautify Veterans Memorial Circle in Rockford

On Saturday, May 11, 2019, our teams will be working:

  • at the center of the roundabout
  • at the four wing walls of the roundabout 
  • at the northeastern corner of the roundabout, near the entrance to Greenwood Cemetery
  • and on the 23 flower beds between the roundabout and the Rock River.

work areas_Beautify Veterans Memorial Circle
At the roundabout, teams will be tending to the areas marked in red. Original photo courtesy of M&M Photography

Project timeline_Beautify Veterans Memorial Circle in Rockford Illinois

What will we be doing on Spruce-Up Day?

Spruce Up Day materials_Beautify Veterans Memorial Circle
Bright color? Bring it!

Digging up the overgrown ornamental grass at the center of the roundabout and at the roundabout’s four wing walls. This may be the toughest job; the soil throughout these grounds is often hardened clay. The ornamental grass needs to be pulled out with a degree of caution because what is removed will be transported by city crews for use elsewhere in the city.

Breaking up the packed soil.

Filling in the holes left by the removed clumps of ornamental grass with a significant amount of additional soil to augment the plant bed.

Weeding will be necessary in plant beds throughout the roundabout and in the 23 flower beds on Auburn Street, between the roundabout and the Rock River. Each flower bed is 4 feet by 12 feet. Nine flower beds are on the north side of Auburn Street; 14 flower beds are on the south side of Auburn.

Planting colorful annuals in all these areas.

Planting colorful perennial flowering bushes in areas of the roundabout where they would be sheltered from the harshness of road salt during the winter.

Replanting a few of the removed ornamental grass clumps at the northeastern corner of the roundabout, near the entrance to Greenwood Cemetery, where the base to the Civil War memorial remains. (Please see Recovering from the loss of ‘Boy in Blue’ below.)

Watering all the new plantings – thoroughly!

What happens after Spruce-Up Day?

From spring through to fall clean-up, Veterans Memorial Circle and surrounding areas will need to be maintained. After Spruce-Up Day planting, the newly planted flowers will need to be watered regularly while they get their footing. Depending on the weather, we will need volunteers to help with this endeavor. We are working with the City of Rockford to see what watering services they have contracted for that might help us out.

PLOGGING, defined in Churchill’s Grove’s February 2019 newsletter

Regular trash pickup is an important task in our beautification project. Last year, volunteers picked up trash alone Auburn Street and the roundabout once a week. Local businesses have allowed us to use their trash containers to put in what is picked up.

Weeding is another task we need to have people involved in. We will establish a schedule and areas where volunteers can sign up to take responsibility for maintaining their portion of the beautification project.

At the end of the growing season, fall clean-up will be our final task for the foliage. We will be pulling out the annual flowers that have died out and trimming back the perennials that grew over the summer. With our expansion of the beautification project to include the roundabout area, we will need volunteers to come out and help.

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Glorious Ascent sculpture atop Civil War base
When a sculpture that is part of a temporary public art display is taken away in June 2020, the base of this Civil War monument will again be empty.

If you are new to the area, you might think that the installation on the northeastern corner of the roundabout – at the entrance to Greenwood Cemetery – was put up when the traffic circle was constructed. That is not the case.

There are two parts to the structure at the northeastern corner of the roundabout:

  • The base, inscribed with “A Timeless Tribute to Every Soldier,” had supported a well-recognized Civil War statue since 1984.
  • A sculpture titled Glorious Ascent, part of a two-year public art display, was placed on the empty base in June 2018.

There are also two parts to the story about what’s missing from the base:

  • The Civil War statue known as the Boy In Blue, which stood as a guard of the N. Main and Auburn intersection since 1984, was a ready-made focal point for Veterans Memorial Circle when the roundabout was being designed and built.
  • But this Civil War statue isn’t city property. It belongs to Winnebago County. When the county chose to move the statue a year after the roundabout was built – it’s now at Memorial Hall in downtown Rockford – Veterans Memorial Circle lost its icon.
Boy in Blue statue_photo by Rockford Register Star
When this statue was moved in 2014, the circle lost its icon / Rockford Register Star photo

If you do a street view on Google Maps for the northeastern corner of the North Main and Auburn intersection (from photos taken in October 2017), you can see the emptiness atop the “A Timeless Tribute for Every Soldier” base and weeds filling in where the statue had been. Remains of an unknown Civil War soldier, part of a collection of artifacts from Memorial Hall, were buried under the statue. In 2014, when the statue was moved, the unknown soldier’s remains were left at the base, where the statue had been.

  • Our short-term goal for this spot is to spruce up and beautify the area around the base.
  • Our long-term goal is to raise money for additional improvements, including another statue to place on the base after the public art installation is taken away.

How you can help

This project is a grassroots effort fully supported by donations and efforts of private citizens and local businesses.

There are many ways to get involved:

  • Help us get the word out.
  • Assist in the design of a new eye-catching landscape for Veterans Memorial Circle.
  • Join a projected 400 Rockford residents on Spruce-Up Day – Saturday, May 11 – to dig up clumps of ornamental grass, fill in dirt, prep flower beds, and plant new flowers.
  • Adopt one of the 23 flower beds on Auburn Street between the roundabout and the Rock River.
  • Prepare and serve lunch on Spruce-Up Day.
  • Plan and participate in the re-dedication ceremony, on Sunday, May 19.
  • Join work teams assigned to keep the roundabout and Auburn Street flower beds looking good throughout the year.
  • Help develop long-term plans to make Veterans Memorial Circle even more beautiful in the future.
  • Donate cash or gifts-in-kind to fund this project.
  • Let veterans who need some added encouragement know that this is happening.
    Team effort on Auburn St flower bed
    Adopt a flower bed on Auburn Street, as these neighbors did in 2018 / Photo by RICK WESTLAKE


“ … when people walk or drive by these crossroads called North Main and Auburn streets, they should know … what a special place it is because of the men and women who came before us who transformed our community and our country.”

 – City of Rockford Administrator Jim Ryan,

at the dedication of Veterans Memorial Circle on November 8, 2013