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Twin Cities Talk: A small-town Christmas

There were more than 35 entries in the Prophetstown Christmas Parade Saturday night including Prophetstown city employees to locally loved Thicksten's Popcorn and the Tampico Historical Society.
There were more than 35 entries in the Prophetstown Christmas Parade Saturday night including Prophetstown city employees to locally loved Thicksten's Popcorn and the Tampico Historical Society.

PROPHETSTOWN – Add this to the list of things I’ve experienced in a small town – I judged a Christmas parade Saturday night for the first time.

About a month ago, I was asked if I would like to serve as a judge for the Prophetstown Christmas Parade. I thought it would be a fun holiday activity, so I decided to take part.

When I arrived into town, I was very surprised to see so many people out and about. I struggled to find parking as Main Street already was crowded by 5:30 p.m. The parade was just part of the festivities taking place Saturday night.

I walked down the street in time to hear “Silent Night” being sung and to see the Love Tree being lighted. A small crowd gathered around the tree, candles in hand.

Shortly after, it was time to get seated to judge the parade. There were more than 35 entries, from Prophetstown city employees to locally loved Thicksten’s Popcorn and the Tampico Historical Society.

One of my favorites was the Lyndon Nite Riders, who had a large float of four-wheelers decorated to look like the Polar Express.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the Little People of Praise community children’s choir. This adorable group performed a medley of Christmas favorites right in front of the judge’s panel.

Afterward, my fellow judge and I went to local hot spot Cindy Jean’s to eat. The place was packed, which was the hope of Prophetstown Main Street. After we were seated, Cindy Jean herself came to our table to wait on us. That’s unusual, but necessary on what someone told us is their busiest day of the year.

While I can’t say I get to Prophetstown often, I’m certain I will return. A new restaurant, Niccoli’s, just opened that serves Mexican food and bakery items. There are other local shops to visit, too.

To the people of Prophetstown – I enjoyed being part of a small-town Christmas.

How do you think Sterling should define itself?

STERLING – Quick – what are the first three things that come to mind when you think of Sterling?

That’s the question local business owner Tim McNinch wants residents to answer. McNinch, who owns Air Play Sports downtown, has forms for people to fill out anonymously and deposit in a box at his coffeehouse and sporting goods store.

The city recently introduced the idea of developing a new citywide identity at a council meeting. McNinch wants to know what residents think should be part of that identity.

City leaders say developing a brand will help market and sell the town to potential investors, while giving residents a consistent image to use to promote the town.

Sterling was once known primarily as a place where people made things. At its height, the city was in fact referred to as the “Hardware Capital of the World.” That’s not the case any more. The titans of the steel and hardware industry no longer are here.

The idea in soliciting suggestions is to help determine what Sterling’s identity should be now. Is it simply that it’s a safe place to raise a family, away from the noise and traffic of the big cities? Is it a river city? What defines the community as a whole?

We have good schools, beautiful parks and a local hospital, but so do many other small communities. What is it that separates Sterling from every other small town?

These are the questions city leaders and business owners hope to answer when attempting to create a new identity.

McNinch, who is on Sterling Main Street’s executive committee, said the best way to determine what Sterling’s brand should be is by asking those who know best – the residents.

“What’s your goal?” he said. “Make sure people in Sterling are happy, then outside people will be happy.”

The suggestion box has been available 3 weeks now; he will keep collecting suggestions until the end of the month, then share them with Mayor Skip Lee.

If you would like to add your thoughts to Sterling’s branding process, visit Air Play Sports at 115 E. Third St.

Sauk Valley Media reporter Kiran Sood covers government and happenings in Sterling and Rock Falls. She can be reached at or at 800-798-4085, ext. 529.

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