What’s Up Downtown (our Blog)

2023 Report to Our Community

              A message from our Executive Director

Wow, what a year!  While 2021 was a year of organizational planning coming out of the COVID days, 2022 was definitely a year of implementation and growth!


In partnership with a small group of Keystone Group Members, our Mural Committee got to work raising funds and starting a restoration plan for downtown Sterling’s historic murals. Bringing back the original artist, Robert Valadez, “Adelante” underwent a full restoration over the summer.


Our Economic Vitality Committee continued pursuing the creation of a retail incubator and broke ground on the project in July, partnering with the Whiteside Area Career Center’s Building Trades class for much of the construction which remains ongoing. The application process for our first round of entrepreneurs is winding down and we anticipate having 6 new businesses open later this spring! This project would not have been possible without the financial investment from area businesses and individuals like you, and the commitment of the City of Sterling. Sterling Main Street was blessed to receive a T-Mobile Hometown Grant of $50,000 for the project – having been selected as one of 25 recipients nationwide for this  grant from a pool of over 400 applicants.


The Twin City Farmers Market continued work on its list of improvements to better serve our community. The  year-round farmers market saw the construction of a new deck, completed for safer access to the indoor space, as well as a new glass garage door on the north side of the building, replacing an old metal rollup door that was becoming increasingly hazardous.  During 2022, our Market welcomed 71 different vendors utilizing both its indoor, year-round Market space and the outdoor Sterling Marketplace pavilion.


In addition to 52 weeks of Farmers Markets in 2022, Sterling Main Street hosted a dozen other community events. 236 volunteers provided 1,288 hours of service to help bring those activities to life.  Our Sip+Shop events held in both the spring and fall saw 15 different businesses participating and great attendance. Our Spring event was SOLD OUT!  Mother Nature was not cooperative for our Car Show, but despite the gloomy weather it was a profitable event for our organization. We expanded our summer Pop-Up Market series to 6 events over the 3 month period. The Market series welcomed 49 unique vendors and saw quite an uptick in guest attendance. Hot Dog Day was another sell out event with over 7,000 hot dogs served up during the 3 hour event. 24 businesses took part – be it cooking, sidewalk sales, or other fun activities. The Fun Fair provided in conjunction with the B.L.I.N.D. student leadership group was a huge hit as well. Hops on the Rock saw beautiful weather for the day. Attendance was up, new regional brewery participation was up, and the feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive as we continue to grow this event. The Downtown Christmas Walk saw record turn out and near perfect weather. Seasonal Sights & Sounds was the perfect note to end what’s been a fantastic year on.


Sterling Main Street was recognized at the Illinois Main Street Conference held in Bloomington in October with The Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Revitalization for Organization. This award recognizes Main Streets who create a strong foundation for a sustainable revitalization effort, including cultivating partnerships, community involvement, and resources for its district.

Main Street was pleased to take part in a Community Pride workshop with the cities of Sterling and Rock Falls, along with other community partners.  You’ll see more work inspired by that workshop coming in 2023. We also enjoy being a part of the City’s Riverfront Commission, and working with their partners Gorman & Co. and Studio GWA, in promoting revitalization of Sterling’s riverfront.

A few of our goals for 2023 and beyond…

  • With a continued focus on the growth of entrepreneurship and business development, Sterling Main Street will further explore ways to expand the Twin City Farmers Market, the Shoppes at Grandon Plaza and Pop-Up Market opportunities.
  • Sterling Main Street will continue strategic partnerships with the Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, City of Sterling, Sterling Today, Greater Sterling Development Corp, Sauk Valley Community College, Woodlawn Arts Academy, and others on collaborative projects such as the Keystone Group, riverfront redevelopment, mural restoration, banners for the 1st Avenue Bridge and more.
  • Sterling Main Street will continue its volunteer recruitment efforts to engage more of the public in its committees and event planning.


How you can help

Our 2023 Partnership Campaign is now underway. In addition to the many specific event-related promotional opportunities Sterling Main Street offers, we have a number of ongoing programs and revitalization activities for which funding is also needed. Partnership opportunities are welcomed from both businesses and individuals.

To learn more about all of the ways available to support Sterling Main Street…
Click HERE to view a printable PDF document
or HERE for an online response form.

Thank you for your ongoing support of Sterling Main Street and the revitalization of Downtown Sterling!

*Please click HERE to download a printable version of our Annual Report & Partnership Campaign

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T-Mobile Hometown Grant

So we did a thing today…


The T-Mobile Hometown Grant initiative has been a tremendous resource for small town America since it’s inception in early 2021 and Sterling Main Street is blessed to have been selected to receive a $50,000 Hometown grant in support of our Shoppes at Grandon Plaza project.

Thanks also to Air Play Espresso & Bakery for allowing us to hold our celebration in your warmth after the award announcement on site.

Learn more HERE

Applications now being accepted

November 3, 2022

The Shoppes at Grandon Plaza, a retail incubator project by Sterling Main Street, is being designed to attract small businesses, create more retail shopping options, and bring people into downtown Sterling. Its inaugural season will open in the spring of 2023!

The long-term goal of this project is to continue to foster entrepreneurship in Sterling and the greater Sauk Valley region, specifically as it relates to retail shopping. To provide a structured setting for new businesses to test their market, while also providing the ongoing educational support and training for those entrepreneurs to help ensure their best chance of long-term success in a competitive and challenging retail environment. And further, to provide a pipeline of new businesses to keep storefronts occupied and add to the prosperity of the communities in which they locate.

As construction of the incubator units continues, the Application Portal for prospective businesses is now open. Applications will be accepted until December31, 2022 at 5:00 PM.

Applications will be reviewed in early 2023 and Vendors will be notified of their acceptance in February 2023. Possession of the units will be delivered to vendors at the beginning of April and vendors will have one month to customize their spaces prior to the May 2023 opening.*

An independent jury will review all applications and select the vendors for the 2023 season.  The jury committee will strive for diversity in vendor offerings, and applications will be reviewed with this in mind.

For more information on the application process and the online application form, please visit https://www.sterlingmainstreet.org/sgpvendors/, or contact Sterling Main Street Executive Director, Janna Groharing at 815-626-8610 or by email at janna@sterlingmainstreet.org

*Please note that Sterling Main Street will do it’s best to adhere to this timeline. As the incubator units are currently under construction, modifications to the timeline may be needed due to unforeseen construction delays. Every effort will be made to keep vendors, once selected, fully informed on the construction process.

What’s Up Downtown!

Other Happening for the week of August 8th:
While fundraising remains ongoing, we’re in the final stages of planning on the Adelante restoration that starts NEXT WEEK! August 16th! Want to get involved? Join us at the office TONIGHT (Aug 😎 at 6:30 for our final planning meeting. Or Donate Now –>> https://bit.ly/3yGQurP

Looking for other ways to get involved in your community? Our Design Committee, Economic Vitality Committee and Hops on the Rock Planning Committee are all meeting this week as well.
  • Design Committee – Tuesday, August 9th @ Noon | The Precinct, 113 E. 3rd Street
  • Economic Vitality Committee (Retail Incubator Planning) – Tuesday, August 9th @ 4 PM | The Precinct, 113 E. 3rd Street
  • Hops on the Rock Planning Committee – Tuesday, August 9th @ 5:30 PM | The Precinct, 113 E. 3rd Street
Our Main Street Pop-Up Market returns to Dale Park this Thursday, with musical guest Bobbi White, 30+ vendors and special guests Gorman & Company and Studio GWA who will be sharing information on the Riverfront Redevelopment efforts.
The Twin City Farmers Market is in full swing on Saturday morning, Showplace Antiques & Treasures is celebrating 13 years on the 13th, and lots more.  Come downtown and see what’s happening.
Want to get involved…learn more here —>> https://www.sterlingmainstreet.org/partners/volunteer/

Upcoming Meetings!

Join us and help make a difference in your community.  Sterling Main Street is a volunteer-based organization and our success depends on you!  Our committee meetings are open to all, so just show up, or contact us for more information on getting involved.  Call 815-626-8610 or email info@sterlingmainstreet.org.

To Learn more about our committee’s activities visit https://www.sterlingmainstreet.org/partners/volunteer/


Design Committee
Tuesday, July 12th @ Noon

Welcome Home Campaign
Tuesday, July 12th @ 6 PM
Sauk Valley Area Chamber Office
Zoom option also available – Contact Us for link

Keystone Group Summer Gathering (Ages 21-35)
Thursday, July 14th @ 5:30 PM
Brink’s Patio & Pop-Up Market

Economic Vitality Committee
Tuesday, July 19th @ 4 PM
Sterling Main Street Office

Organization Committee
Tuesday, July 26th @ 9 AM
Sterling Main Street Office

Promotions Committee
Tuesday, August 2 @ 9:30 AM
Sterling Main Street Office
Zoom option also available – Contact Us for link

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