Monkeying around in Rockford

Calling all sick sock monkeys—Sockford General Hospital is open for business March 8 and 9. Healthy monkeys and their people also will find lots to do at the 4th Annual Sock Monkey Madness Festival at Midway Village and Museum Center in Rockford.

The event features everything from a sock monkey film festival to sock monkey crafts for kids."We have an area where we put out all sorts of stuff to make their own sock monkey, and we see Grandmas and kids making them,” says Jessica MacDonald, special events coordinator for the museum."People go wild with their creativity.”

Sock monkeys, a toy your grandmother may have played with in her childhood, are made from Red Heel socks, which were invented in Rockford in the 1890s. No one knows who created the first monkeys from the socks, but for years the directions to make the monkeys have been packaged with the socks.

To celebrate the sock monkey’s local heritage, the Midway Village and Museum Center has a permanent exhibit on the monkeys. After seeing the explosion in interest in sock monkeys, the museum staff decided to host the festival. Last year more than 1,000 people from around the country visited the festival.

“It just seems inevitable that we’d have to bring all the sock monkey devotees together,” MacDonald says."And it’s a family thing, both boys and girls like it… A lot of what we do brings the generations together. This is a bit of history, something the grandmother may have had and then they make new ones for the youngest family members.”

The festival is held from noon to 5 p.m. March 8-9 at Midway Village and Museum Center, 6799 Guilford Road, Rockford. The two-day fest includes sock monkey pageants, crafts, films, collectors’ displays, vendors and Sockford General Hospital, where ailing sock monkeys can get new stuffing or a wellness check from resident surgeons.

Admission to the fest and museum is $7, $4 for children and students. There is an additional charge for workshop materials. For more information visit the Web site at or call (815) 397-9112.

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