More than 200 people gathered for the seventh Party on the Prairie on the evening of July 15, 2017 at Nygren Wetland Preserve in Rockton, Ill. The theme of this year’s party was “Party on the Prairie Heads South, Y’all” with a southern barbecue- flavored décor and dinner, which took place in a 100 ft. tent along a prairie in full bloom — a carpet of yellow, gold   and lavender color. Guests were greeted at the Front Porch tent, a place to “Sit – Relax – Gossip.” A wicker porch-like setting with trellises and live plants set the mood for the entrance. Horse-drawn wagon rides began at 4:30 p.m., and scrumptious appetizers and moonshine complimentary cocktails followed at 5:30 p.m. Music by Swingbilly RFD set the mood for a downhome southern dinner which began in the big tent at 6:30 p.m. Dinner was provided by Michelle Princer and her staff from Toni’s of Winnebago. The superb salad, Fried Green Tomato Tower veggie dinner or the Chicken with Peach Bourbon Barbecue Sauce, followed by Banana Pudding in a canning jar, were a huge hit. Prairie Street Brewing Co. and Reed Sjostrom provided exceptional libations. Bandana napkins provided a great splash of color.

Thank You To Everyone Who Helped Make It A Success

Photo: Judy Barnard

There are so many people to thank, beginning with the EVENT SPONSORS:  Wild Bergamot ($2,500 – Campbell Science; Evening Primrose ($1,200) – Sjostrom & Sons, Inc.; Purple Prairie Clover ($1,000) – Bugler Design Inc., Market Works, Prairie Street Brewing Co., Specialty Screw Corporation; Prairie Spiderwort Sponsor ($750) – Aramark, UTC Aerospace Systems; Hoary Vervain ($500) – Gary W. Anderson Architects, NorthPointe Health & Wellness Campus, SAVANT; Daisy Fleabane ($250) – Sound Concepts, WIPFLi.

Thanks also to the many SILENT AUCTION DONORS, as well as LIVE AUCTION DONORS, including Illinois Conservation Foundation, Brewhouse Inn (Milwaukee), Prairie Street  Brewing Co., Avalanche Ranch, Lindstrom Travel, Carol and Hazen Tuck, and the Nygren Fall Dinner Crew. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the overall atmosphere, including Bruce Hammond and Sound Concepts for sound — and for lighting up the night, providing beautiful tent lighting to augment the glorious colors of the prairie; Michael Bugler, Charlie Sturm and Judy Barnard for décor; Becky Genoways for finding the centerpiece jars and Jerry Paulson for creating the wildflower arrangements that graced the tables. Thanks also to Village Green for the loan of many plants; Tyler Smith for provided mowing services under both tents; Swingbilly RFD for the music; Bugler Design Inc. for the exceptional graphics and Rockford Litho Center for great printing services.

Photo: Jill Kennay

Special thanks to NLI staff including Jill Kennay, who coordinated many of the logistics including registration and rentals; Kim Johnsen, who found sponsors, assisted with the silent and live auctions and coordinated volunteers; Zach Grycan, who helped with everything Nygren Wetland, including mowing, major moving, lifting and making the preserve shine; Ed Cope who assisted with the same, and our intern Brenda Finkbeiner, who helped, as well. Jess Formea assisted with registration and silent auction checkout. Thanks to all of them for onsite coordination that evening.

Many people helped with set-up, including Jill, Kim, Zach, Ed, Becky Genoways, Michael Bugler, Richard and Michelle Swanson, Becky Brearley, Susan Hammond, Bonnie and Jim Binning, Gus Larson, Kate Genoways, Dan Walls, Charlie Sturm, Julie Trank, Aaron Wheeler, and NLI Trustees Paul Baits, Tom Ptacin, Ashley Sarver, Dr. Dan Swift, and Carrie Zethmayr. Thanks to Becky Brearley, Becky Genoways and Michelle Swanson for helping with silent auction set-up and making it look beautiful. With gratitude to the NLI BOARD OF TRUSTEES for helping in so many ways — from contributing to the silent auction, to greeting guests, to tearing down! Thanks also to TABLE SPONSORS and SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY TABLE SPONSORS.

Photo: Jill Kennay

Teardown was the best ever, thanks to Edward and Vicki Eggers, Gordon and Rose Eggers, Paul Baits, Zach and Melissa Grycan, Ed Cope, Becky Genoways, Jill Kennay, Kim Johnsen, Kerry Leigh, Jim Anderson, Susan Rayner, and Richard and Michelle Swanson. Thanks to Becky Genoways and Rick Strader who helped transport items for decorations, silent auction, and more to Nygren Wetland. We also very much appreciate Don Banks for creating a very fun live auction; our Wagoneers for rides through the prairie; Wagon Naturalist Hosts; and Lucy Brearley, Nina Jacobson, and Tiffany Barton for providing their assistance at the bar.

And thanks also Jim McFarlane and Mike Williams for parking and to Kerry Leigh and Mark Maffei for their opening remarks.

As with any event, it takes an entire team to make it happen, and ours is the very best! It was indeed a perfect Party on the Prairie. Thanks Y’all!!!

        Judy Barnard, Event Chair & Coordinator

SPECIAL NOTE: NLI Board of Trustees and staff extend their sincere appreciation to Judy Barnard, Event Chair and Silent and Live Auctions Coordinator, for her commitment to making Party on the Prairie a success. Judy’s flair for event planning and fundraising always provides exceptional experiences for guests and we are grateful for the time she devotes to planning for this event.