By Bob Balgemann


MACHESNEY PARK – Commemorative signs have been placed in front of Harlem High School and along North Second Street, to recognize exemplary achievements in athletics.

Among those honored have been state wrestling champions such as Jordan Northrup and Sage Hecox.

Now honorary signs are going to be placed along Waterview Road as a lasting reminder that Robin Zander, lead vocalist and guitarist for the rock band, Cheap Trick, once lived there.

This recognition and others are an initiative of the Rockford Area Convention Band Visitors Bureau, in honor of Zander and other members of the band. The band recently was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2016.

Some signs already have been put up in areas of Rockford, where other band members grew up. Now the bureau has asked the village of Machesney Park to do the same, for Zander. The village board was happy to oblige with a unanimous vote of approval at the May 2 meeting.

Information assembled in Wikipedia, the online free dictionary, provides some background on Zander.

Now 63 years of age he was born in Beloit, Wis., and grew up in Loves Park. That was in the days before the incorporation of Machesney Park in 1981.

He attended local schools and participated in plays, but it was the Beatles appearance in the Ed Sullivan Show in 1963 that reportedly led to his taking up the guitar.

He was under contract with another musician to perform in a club at the Wisconsin Dells in the early 1970s, when Cheap Trick was being formed in Rockford. He was asked to be the band’s lead singer, but had to decline because of his contract in the Dells.

The offer was made again one year later at a time when his contract in the Dells was about to expire. He accepted the Cheap Trick job in 1974 and has been part of that award-winning group ever since.

Machesney Park’s honorary signs will be paid for by the Rockford visitors bureau.

In related news a new video honoring Cheap Trick has been released by Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers, in concert with the visitors bureau campaign.

“You have to embrace where you’re from,” he said in a statement. “It’s real; it’s honest. I think Rockford should be proud, and they should celebrate Rick Nielsen and Cheap Trick every %&*#@& day.”

The video celebrated the band’s inducation into the Hall of Fame as well as its connection to its hometown roots.

Another recognition

Also at the May 2 meeting the village board recognized Harlem High School senior Nick McCormick, who will graduate later this month, for serving as the student liaison for the past year. While doing so, he kept trustees, Mayor Jerry Bolin and other officials up to date on what was happening at the high school.

Nick is president of the National Honor Society, performs with the various bands at Harlem and is involved in the Vets Project.

He was one of four students chosen to join the regional Vets Roll group on its annual trip to Washington, D.C. earlier this month. He also is captain of the varsity tennis team and will be attending the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

Mayor Bolin commended him for being an exemplary liaison. “We appreciate you and wish you well,” he said.

Nick thanked board members and officials. He said being present at meetings twice a month “was a fantastic experience for me. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

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