What’s Up Downtown (our Blog)

Sip into Spring Wrap Up

Where to even start with the extensive list of Thank Yous we have to share for an amazing Sip into Spring event, kicking off downtown events for 2022!

First to our participating downtown businesses.  Without your support of and participation in our Sip & Shop events there would be no event.  Your enthusiasm and creativity inspire me and brings such a great energy to our downtown.  So thank you to Brink’s, Curt Repass Country Financial, Fringe & Co. Salon & Western Boutique, Nares Event Co., Lisa’s Brickhouse, Manny’s Pizza & Tacos, Merle Norman, NASOS Beauty Supply & Boutique, Primitive Frills, Rusty Fox, Smoked on 3rd, UOI Boutique, Vintage Cousins Emporium and West End Moxie.

Next to our Sponsors:  The Candlelight Group, Martin & Co., Midland States Bank, Select Employees Credit Union and RRCA Accounts Management.  Your continued support of our downtown events allow them to continue to grow each year!

A very special thank you goes out….

  • To Denny, Jess & crew at Champs on Light Street for the use of their banquet room for our end of the evening festivities,
  • To Gustavo Medrano & Sauk Valley DJs for always been such a huge supporter of our small businesses and for keeping the party going,
  • To Elisa & Chelsea from Odds & Events Co. for their creativity and amazing set up of our selfie stations and table décor, taking our “Flower Power” theme to the next level,
  • To Brink’s, Manny’s and Smoked for our “Taste of Downtown Sterling,” keeping our guests fed at the end of the night; and
  • To our volunteers, Christa & Julie from Mike Sprague State Farm, Kim from Bartini’s, and Kris from the Sauk Valley Area Chamber for lending your time in helping us smoothly get through the mad rush of check-in for our SOLD OUT event!

And last but certainly not least, Thanks to all of YOU who bought tickets and took part in Sip into Spring!  Despite the SNOW, we had a blast and I we hope you did too!  Thanks to your support, our downtown we’ll keep our downtown looking colorful all summer long!

Without ALL of you none of this would be possible!

Thank You!!

Mural Restoration

“Adelante” Muralist Roberto Valadez

Thanks to new energy from our Keystone Group, a revamped Mural Committee formed in late 2021.  After a thorough inspection of the murals the group began prioritizing their maintenance needs.  “Adelante” (1999) by Muralist Roberto Valadez was selected as the first to focus our efforts on.  The group is planning for the restoration of this mural depicting Sterling’s rich Hispanic heritage in late Summer 2022, for an unveiling in conjunction with the 2022 Fiesta Days Parade.  The original muralist, Roberto Valadez, will be returning to Sterling to take part in its restoration and we will be enlisting additional assistance from the community.

While a few of the murals are in need of more significant repairs, many of them are just in need of a little cleaning and new layer of protective coating to preserve them for years to come.  These tasks will be ongoing throughout the year as well, as planning and fundraising efforts take place to address some of the more detailed repairs needed to others.

Donations are currently being accepted to help with the restorations.  You may use the link below, or make your cash or check donation to Sterling Main Street, 15 E. 3rd Street, Sterling, IL 61081.  Be sure to note “Murals” with your donation.   Call 815-626-8610 or Contact Us for more information.

Más de 20 años… parece que para siempre, pero no hace tanto tiempo, esos lienzos en blanco de ladrillo cobró vida para contar la historia de Sterling, Illinois – su primeros pobladores, escenas de su pasado, importante momentos en la historia que hacen de Sterling el grande comunidad que es hoy.

Gracias a la nueva energía del Grupo Keystone, se formó un Comité de murales renovado a fines de 2021. Después de una inspección exhaustiva de los murales, el grupo comenzó a priorizar sus necesidades de mantenimiento. “Adelante” (1999) del muralista Roberto Valadez fue seleccionada como la primera en la que concentrar nuestros esfuerzos. El grupo está planeando la restauración de este mural que representa la rica herencia hispana de Sterling en agosto de 2022, para una inauguración junto con el Desfile de los Días de Fiesta de 2022. El muralista original, Roberto Valadez, regresará a Sterling para participar en su restauración y solicitaremos asistencia adicional de la comunidad.

Si bien algunos de los murales necesitan reparaciones más importantes, muchos de ellos solo necesitan un poco de limpieza y una nueva capa de revestimiento protector para preservarlos en los años venideros. Estas tareas también continuarán durante todo el año, a medida que se realicen esfuerzos de planificación y recaudación de fondos para abordar algunas de las reparaciones más detalladas necesarias para otros. Actualmente se están aceptando donaciones para ayudar con las restauraciones.

Puede usar el enlace a continuación, o hacer su donación en efectivo o cheque a Sterling Main Street, 15 E. 3rd Street, Sterling, IL 61081. Asegúrese de anotar “Murales” con su donación. Llame al 815-626-8610 o contáctenos para obtener más información.


Donation for Mural Restoration

Donation for Mural Restoration



2022 Report to Our Community and Annual Partnership Campaign

A look back at 2021…
             A message from our Executive Director

2021 started out with a great deal of uncertainty as the COVID-19 pandemic lingered on. Moving forward with planning for our regular event schedule, we remained cautiously optimistic things would be returning to “normal” as the year went on.

In March we moved into our new home in the Sanborn Building, one of Sterling Today’s latest projects, located at 15 E. 3rd Street, across from Smoked on 3rd. With ample room to spare, the building is being developed into a multi-tenant co-working space. We welcomed Destinations Travel to the building in January of this year.

Our event schedule got off to a great start with our May Car Show which saw 148 vehicles  entered, and a record 50/50 pot. Our monthly Pop-Up Market series during the summer got off at a rainy start, but ended with record attendance, both in vendors and guests, and featured some great live music throughout the series.  Hot Dog Day returned on the 1st Friday of August with 7,500 hot dogs offered during the 3 hour event. The BLIND Student Leadership Group once again donated their time and provided great volunteer assistance in making the event a success. Our Sip into Fall event sold out and provided a great boost to our downtown retailers. One of our newest downtown businesses, Fringe & Co. Salon & Boutique was able to offer a sneak peek into their space during the event as they readied for opening. October’s Hops on the Rock was FINALLY able to make the Sterling Marketplace its event home.  It was a beautiful day, attendance was fabulous and the new venue worked perfectly for this growing—and now award winning—event.

The Twin City Farmers Market, located in the historic Twin City Produce Building at 106 Avenue A, continues to grow. Our year-round, indoor farmers market remains at capacity for vendors. We are grateful for the addition of the Sterling Marketplace pavilion, added in 2020, as we utilize the space from May through October to allow the Twin City Farmers Market much needed expansion. A new handicap accessible deck was added on the south side of the building in 2021, making way for the rebuilding of the Market’s west-side deck in 2022 – a project which is very much need. The Market is also working with the City of Sterling to explore possibilities of expanding further into the Twin City Produce Building to allow more vendors on a year-round basis.

From an organizational standpoint, 2021 was a year of development for Sterling Main Street.  The Illinois Main Street program better established itself under the umbrella of Main Street America, which provided for more educational opportunities for staff and board members to take advantage of, which in turn helps us do our jobs better and bring more to the community. Two of the accomplishments I am personally most proud of are receiving certification from the National Development Council in historic real estate finance, and being asked to serve on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Farmers Market Association (ILFMA).

At a planning retreat held in October, the Sterling Main Street board of directors also placed an emphasis on rebuilding our core committees – Design. Organization. Promotions. Economic Vitality. Our committees are a great way for the community at large to get involved and have a voice in impacting growth in Downtown Sterling. We’ve got some lofty goals for 2022 and beyond, but see amazing things happening in our community with the current enthusiasm and momentum of our volunteers.

A few of our goals for 2022 and beyond…

  • With a focus on entrepreneurship and business development, Sterling Main Street is planning development of a retail incubator to provide a launching pad for area entrepreneurs to take the next step in growing their businesses and expand retail offerings in Downtown Sterling.
  • Continuing growth of entrepreneurial opportunities, Sterling Main Street is exploring ways to further expand the Twin City Farmers Market, and will offer additional Pop-Up Market nights in 2022.
  • Sterling Main Street will continue to work closely with the Keystone Group, and other collaborative efforts with the Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce on key projects such as the Welcome Home campaign to attract new and former residents to the greater Sterling area.
  • Continue to develop our committees with additional input and volunteers from the community at large.
  • Continue to promote our Façade Grant program to property owners within the Downtown Business District.


To learn more about Sterling Main Street and how you can help support our projects and initiatives, click HERE


Looking back…

Looking back on 2021 and all we here at Sterling Main Street accomplished, one of the less visible things of which I am most proud came by way of professional development. On December 1st I received certification as a Historic Real Estate Development Finance Professional (HREDFP) from the National Development Council (NDC).

HREDFP Certification is a professional credential given to individuals who successfully complete NDC’s intensive historic real estate development finance training series. The training provides professionals working in the field of historic preservation and economic, housing and community development with essential skills and knowledge in historic real estate development finance, including problem solving and deal structuring.

The two course HREDFP Certification Program courses are five days in length and conclude with an exam. Upon successful completion of both courses, the candidate is awarded HREDFP Certification.

Thanks to the encouragement our then IL Main Street coordinator, Kelli, at Main Street America (MSA), and the 1772 Foundation’s generous support of MSA, I was among a handful of Main Street Directors across the country who were able to take advantage of this learning opportunity. 

NDC’s work focuses on HOMES, JOBS and COMMUNITY. Founded as a national nonprofit in 1969, NDC has worked for 50 years at fulfilling its mission to increase the flow of capital for investment in low-income communities. NDC directs capital to support the preservation and creation of affordable housing, the creation of jobs through training and small business lending and the promotion of livable communities through investment in social infrastructure. NDC’s products and services are deployed for the benefit of our municipal and nonprofit partners in both urban and rural low-income communities.

NDC has provided training to over 75,000 professionals working in the fields of economic and housing development. Participants come from diverse backgrounds including city and state governments, public agencies, community-based organizations, professional organizations and banks.

NDC is headquartered in New York City with offices in Seattle, WA, Cleveland, OH and Cincinnati, OH. For more information about NDC, please visit: www.ndconline.org.

~Janna Groharing
Executive Director
Sterling Main Street


2021 Car Show Wrap Up

About our 2021 Show…
WOW! What an amazing way to return to community events after an unexpected year+-long hiatus.
2021 Best of Show 1958 Chevy Bel Air

Our 7th Annual Car Show held on Sunday, May 2, 2021 welcomed 148 entries. Just a few shy of our biggest show in 2019 that had 153 entries. Dennis Gaither of Princeton and his 1958 Chevy Bel Air took home our Best of Show award. Additionally, the Mayor’s Choice and 40 Judge’s Choice awards were given out.

Our 50/50 pot was an all time high with the winner taking home just under $700.

We have so many Thank You’s to share for the day…

To our SPONSORS– Presenting Sponsors: Sterling Chevrolet, CGH Medical Center, US Bank, Johnson Oil Co.; and additional support from SBM Business Equipment Center, Select Employees Credit Union and Showplace Antiques & Treasures – Without their investment in the community events such as these would not be possible.

We also owe a special thanks to Bradford Supply Co. for the use of their parking lot and Sterling Fence for their contributions.

To our VOLUNTEERS – It takes a small army to make our events run smoothly and they all give so generously of their time. From the advance planning to hands on tasks during the event, our Volunteers are truly at the heart of this event. Special thanks to the employees of Sauk Valley Bank, Mike Sprague – State Farm Agent, Rep. Tony McCombie & Liz, Alderwoman Kaitlyn Ekquist, Mayor Lee, City Manager Scott Shumard, many Main Street Board members & their families and anyone else I’m forgetting – we are so grateful for your willingness to give back to the community through your time and support!

To our PARTNERS– from the 2nd year of our show when we moved to the event’s current location, the Sauk Valley Shifters Car Club have been a great partner in planning with Sterling Main Street. Hosting their annual swap meet in conjunction with our show, providing onsite food, volunteers and their special Rat Rod awards, it’s been a great relationship. Fun Fact —>> Did you know that with the funds the Sauk Valley Shifters raise from their involvement they’re developing a scholarship fund for the trades?

To 3-D Sound Company – I don’t even begin to know how to thank these guys for all they do. They are the car show. The knowledge and professionalism they bring to our event every year and the guidance Dave & crew has provided over the years as we continue to grow our event is priceless!

One of the biggest questions we get is “what do you (Main Street) do with the money we raise.” Well…it goes right back into the downtown and largely for our beautification efforts that everyone gets to enjoy. Our flower baskets will be going up in a few weeks, the tulips and daffodils are just finishing their spring bloom, soon to be replaced by more colorful annuals. Funds raised help with their installation and keeping them watered and looking great all season long. Picnic tables are being ordered for Dale Park. The temporary ones we had down there last summer were a hit and we’ll be putting some much more attractive, functional and permanent ones in place this summer.

I’m sure I’ve forgot some along the way, but I’ve rambled on long enough. So will just say a final thank you to the spectators and community who come out to enjoy the show every year. We’re so glad you’re back!

CLICK HERE for more photos from the day!
Thank You to our 2021 Sponsors!


Select Employees Credit Union

Showplace Antiques & Treasures

And a Special Thank you to Bradford Supply Company for use of their Parking Lot 

Sterling Main Street launches its 2021 Partnership Campaign

A look back at 2020…

                           A note from our Executive Director                                                                  

Suffice to say, 2020 was nothing like we could ever have imagined.  Who could have predicted a global pandemic would bring everything to a screeching halt.  St. Patrick’s Day 2020 will be one I will never forget as I quietly cried in my car while driving through our downtown that evening—what should have been one of the busiest nights of the year for our bars and restaurants—everything sat quiet and dark, not a parked vehicle or person in sight.  “Would they all make it through this…” was rolling through my mind as so much was yet unknown.  It was the first day of the statewide shut down for all non-essential businesses in Illinois. As it is nearly a year later, to the day, that I write this, I’m beyond happy to say that while we’re not out of the woods yet, none of our downtown businesses have permanently closed during since time.

Sauk Valley Strong

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, local downtown business owner Dr. Joe Schneiderbauer of Live Better Chiropractic approached Sterling Main Street and the three area Chambers with an idea to show our resilience and strength amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. In a very short period of time, the Sauk Valley Strong T-shirt Campaign began. Over 600 t-shirts were sold; $5,000 in microgrants were awarded to area small businesses, and another $1,600 used to purchase gift cards from the 51 small businesses who signed on to help promote the campaign.

Other COVID-19 Relief

The ups and downs of business restrictions were a true test of the resilience of our small businesses.  Hardest hit were our bars & restaurants as restrictions constantly changed. As outside dining was made an option, we quickly moved our event picnic tables out of storage, with the help of the City’s public works staff, and set up Dale Park for outside dining to help the nearby restaurants.  As a result of the success of the temporary tables, and some 2020 year-end donations, Main Street has committed to having  3 permanent picnic tables installed in Dale Park in 2021.

In the later part of 2020, Sterling Main Street partnered with Sterling Today, Inc. to award $46,000 in grants over the course of 3 months to help our downtown bars and restaurants who remained in compliance with the strict resurgence mitigation restrictions the State had put in place.

From information on PPP Loans, BIG Grants and other Federal, State and local relief opportunities, to smaller scale options offered by  Main Street America and other small business partners, keeping our downtown businesses informed and connected to the resources needed has been ongoing throughout.

Farmers Market

Along with everything else, the Twin City Farmers Market was asked to close at the onset of the pandemic.  Construction on the Sterling Marketplace wrapped up in May 2020 and we were grateful to be able to utilize the space to reopen the Market as spring produce came on.

Ongoing Projects

While our 2020 event schedule was pretty much wiped out, we ramped up our efforts in other areas.  Our downtown beautification activities continued as tulips & daffodils popped up in the spring and we got experimental with our lamppost flower baskets.  Façade Grant projects were wrapped up at Lisa’s Brickhouse and D&E Furniture and a new one began at True Smiles. Our Economic Vitality and Promotions committees have been working tirelessly on new initiatives to help with post-Covid recovery efforts.

Goals for 2021 and beyond…
  • Shine a spotlight on the businesses of Downtown Sterling and their owners, telling their stories for all to get to know them better.
  • Continue to support our downtown businesses by keeping them connected with resources available as economic recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue.
  • Bring back core community events and activities such as our annual Car Show, Hot Dog Day, Hops on the Rock and Seasonal Sights & Sounds in a way that is safe for all.
  • Continue to grow the Twin City Farmers Market for both vendors and customers, making it a premier agritourism destination in the Sauk Valley.
  • Continue to promote our Façade Grant program to property owners within the Downtown Business District.
  • Continue to grow in our working relationship with the City of Sterling and assist wherever possible in the implementation of its Strategic and Riverfront Redevelopment Plans and the revitalization of the Downtown Business District.
  • Continue to partner with Sterling Today, Inc., the Greater Sterling Development Corp., Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Development Center at Sauk Valley Community College, and other community partners in economic development activities for the betterment of the greater Sterling area.
We’ve Moved!

In March 2021, our office relocated to a new space.  We are now at 15 East 3rd Street in Downtown Sterling.  Working with the property owner, Sterling Today, Inc., “The Sanborn Building” is being converted into a shared office/co-working space.  Watch for more details on the project coming soon!

Ways to Support Sterling Main Street

In addition to the many specific event-related promotional opportunities supported by your sponsorship contributions, Sterling Main Street has a number of ongoing programs and revitalization efforts for which funding is also needed.  Your unrestricted Partnership Contributions will be used to help support these activities as well as  specific events where needed. Partnership opportunities are welcomed from both businesses and individuals.

Click to Learn more…

Or make your donation online



2021 Event Schedule

Here we go…

Keeping things a little light this Spring as we continue to ride the COVID-19 roller coaster, but we’re looking forward to some outdoor events and hoping things are a bit more “normal” come fall. As with everything these days, this schedule is subject to changes or cancellations, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed as we look forward to warmer days.

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