Doug Schroder photo The Journal
Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara presented NBA champion Fred VanVleet with a key to the city at the Fred Comes Home celebration held at the City Market Pavilion in Rockford on Saturday, June 30.

By Doug Schroder
The celebrating continued for Rockford native, and newly crowned Toronto Raptors NBA champion, Fred VanVleet as he was welcomed home on Saturday, June 29 with a get together, dubbed “Fred Comes Home”, in his honor at the Rockford City Market pavilion in downtown Rockford.
VanVleet had been in Toronto where he was wrapping up team obligations and celebrations after the Raptors won the NBA championship on June 13.
A crowd of over 8,000 came out on one of the hottest days of the year so far to get a glimpse of VanVleet and hear him speak.
The celebration kicked off with a Dribble the City tip-off where fans brought their own basketballs, assembling at City Hall at 1:30 p.m., and then, starting at 1:50, all dribbled together down State Street to the City Market Pavilion.
Gates at the pavilion opened at 2 p.m. with fans filing in immediately. Workers from the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau manned the entrance, giving out commemorative Fred VanVleet posters while supplies lasted.
Fans continued to file into the venue until the 3 p.m. start time when the speakers at the event were introduced. In the time leading up to the start, local radio personality Steve Shannon entertained the crowd by leading some cheers and getting a few of those in the VIP seats to come up on stage to dance to a song.
Before the speakers were introduced, Shannon introduced Gina Meeks, who then came up on stage and sang a nice rendition of our national anthem.
Speakers for the event were Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara, Winnebago County Board member Burt Gerl, state Sen. Steve Stadelman, Steve Shannon, and VanVleet’s friend and marketing director Marquez Beeks.
Mayor McNamara presented VanVleet with a key to the city, after proclaiming a name change to the city of Rockford.
“Whereas through your character, drive and accomplishments, you are reinforcing the idea that it’s still cool to say I’m from Rockford, Illinois. So on behalf of all the citizens of Rockford, I, Thomas McNamara, Mayor of the city of Rockford, do hereby officially, unofficially, rename Rockford, Fredford,” proclaimed Mayor McNamara.
VanVleet then took the stage and spoke for a little over four minutes. He spoke of what it was like playing basketball while growing up in Rockford and what it means for him to be back now.
“I could go on a world tour. I could go win 100 championships, but if I come home and can’t do this it means nothing to me,” VanVleet said. “What means the most to me is that I got you guys’ love and respect. It’s my job to protect that and it’s you guys’ job to not idolize me as some super-huge figure. I’m just a kid from Rockford that went out to try and do what I did to try and take care of my family. In the meantime I’m trying to leave the city better than I found it.”
VanVleet summed up how he felt about the day in his closing statements.
“Use this time for a very special time. You can feel it in the air. You can feel the energy. You can feel the love, and it’s our job as people who live here, that’re from here, that have kids here, to keep building to make this a better place. That’s my message to you today.”
“Enjoy this moment and look inside yourselves and try and figure what you can do to contribute and make this a better place. If you don’t believe you can do it, just look at me.”

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