‘Hay,’ Rochelle!

Second annual festival this weekend

ROCHELLE — A glance at the ground in a parking lot and it may be pretty easy to spot a penny, but a ‘Hay’braham Lincoln isn’t the only item found in Rochelle parking lots this fall.

The second annual Hay Day Festival is this Saturday and leading up to the festival decorated hay bales are appearing all over town. From a semi-truck at Petro to a fire truck at the fire station and a ballerina downtown to a coffee mug and donut at the fire station, area businesses and organizations are expressing their creativity and in the artistic form of hay bales and paint.

Thirty two area businesses and organizations have participated in the hay bale decorating competition totaling hours of creative work behind each bale. Petro did not participate in the competition last year but came up with the semitruck hay bale last fall after all the bales were distributed.

This year Cindy Knight, HR manager for Rochelle Petro, explained she signed up for a hay bale as soon as the city announced the competition. While there is a competition for the best hay bale, many businesses participate for community involvement and not for the win. Voting on hay bales is currently happening on the City of Rochelle Facebook page. To vote for a hay bale vote for your favorite.

“This was a great way for us to participate in a city event, as we are often considered outside of the city,” explained Knight. “We are really pleased with the way it turned out and glad people are noticing it.”

The hay semi-truck is crafted with one hay bale and 42 rectangle bales. The truck took Knight, Val Mortensen, Kathy Becker and Taylor Buckwalter two full days of work to create. Not only has the semi-truck hay bale garnered attraction in Rochelle but has also brought attention to the Rochelle festival for those passing through town. Knight has noticed motorists stopping their car to take pictures with the hay truck. At the rear of the semi is a banner advertising the hay day festival. Knight has also placed copies of the hay bale maps at check outs in Petro for motorists.

“Our hope was to generate some interest in both the semi and the town wide effort of the hay day festival,” added Knight. “We are a great location to catch those coming off the interstate and hopefully bring them into town to see more hay bales or come back for hay day if they live near by.”

A variety of hay bales can be found within walking distance downtown. Two of the hay bales were decorated by Angela Gillis. This is her second year as the brains and artistic talent behind the hay bales at Rochelle Fire Station and Central School.

“It gets harder to come up with ideas each year as I now know what works and what doesn’t work,” explained Gillis.

Gillis works as a part-time firefighter on the weekend as the health aide at Central School during the week. Last year she designed a dalmatian at the fire station and was inspired to create a fire truck after the department got a new fire truck. Gillis spent four to five hours creating the fire truck piecing together two hay bales and paying attention to details adding ladders, hoses and lights.

Across downtown, fifth grade students at Central School help Gillis craft a tootsie roll out of the hay bale. Gillis explained she was struggling to come up with an idea for the school bale and teacher’s child suggested a piece of candy. She rolled with that idea and came up with the “dual language is how we roll” based on the dual language kindergarten class.

Central School

Hermie the book wormie is currently eating his way through an apple outside the library. The book worm, apple and book was a collaboration between all staff at the library and their family members.

“We searched for ideas online and saw an apple,” explained library director Sarah Flanagan. “Hermie is a fun way to promote the library and reading.”

Flanagan is encouraging library patrons to visit Hermie and take a picture with the book worm. Pictures with Hermie can be emailed to [email protected] and will be displayed inside the library.

“We hope everyone enjoys our apple and book creation. Come to the library and get a picture with Hermie,” Flanagan added.


Jenny Thompson, marketing director for the City of Rochelle, explained the city purchased the hay bales from Matt Schoenholz from Schoenholz Farms.

“We just love watching the community excitement surrounding Hay Day! Every school has a hay bale and the kids are so proud of their creativity,” added Thompson. “Giving families something fun to do right in Rochelle is exactly what we hoped to do with Hay Day.”

Beginning today voting for the straw sculptures will be held at Rochelle City Hall. A ballerina, headless horseman, and Blackhawk statue can be found around Rochelle. Votes on the sculptures are a penny a vote inside City Hall. All money raised from votes will go to the Rochelle Area Community Foundation.

Hay Day

Hay Day will be held Saturday, Oct. 14 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with something for all ages.

“The Hay Day Festival has something for everyone! Most of the kids’ activities are free, we’ve added a Rock Climbing wall for the older kids and HOPE is putting on that craft and vendor show for shopping,” explained Thompson.

Hicks BBQ, Rochelle Fire Department pork chops, Cliff’s Donuts and Walking Chili at Off the Wall will all be available for purchase during the festival. Rochelle Performing Arts Academy will host a bake sale. Bouncy houses, climbing walls, crafts, petting zoo, hay bale maze, food, music and tractors will all be downtown during the Saturday festival.

Attendees to the event will have an opportunity to decorate a pumpkin, hosted by the Flagg-Rochelle Library. HOPE is still accepting vendors for the craft and vendor show. Applications can be picked up downtown inside Hope Chest. Cost is $25 per space.

Hay Day is sponsored by Fehr Graham, Country Insurance Rochelle, Central Bank of Illinois, and the law firm of Peterson, Johnson, & Murray, SC!

Pumpkin decorating

The city is also hosting a pumpkin decorating contest in collaboration with Hay Day. Painted, carved and decorated pumpkins can be dropped off at City Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 11 between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. A $50 cash prize will be awarded in each division: Preschool through third grade, fourth grade through eighth grade, high school, and adult.

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