AJ Davis’ Mural at the Veterans Memorial Circle

Veteran Memorial Circle Mural
Artist: AJ Davis
CRE8IV 2023

In honor of veterans and active military serving our nation in the Armed Forces.
Located on the wall of the Rockford Billiard Cafe, address: 1436 N Main St, Rockford, IL 61103.

Source: Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Rockford Public Art Trail.” Website Accessed 8/3/2023. https://www.gorockford.com/things-to-do/public-art-trail/


ROCKFORD — A new mural at North Main and Auburn streets brings a colorful addition to an intersection dedicated to military veterans.

The public artwork covers the north-facing wall of Rockford Billiard Cafe, 1436 N. Main St., and features an abstract version of the American flag that ties together imagery of an F-35 fighter jet, three blooming poppies and a nondescript military member saluting in uniform.

The salute is given in the direction of Veterans Memorial Circle and the Greenwood Cemetery, the city’s oldest and largest cemetery where more than 500 veterans serving in everything from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War and both World Wars are buried.

“This mural not only serves to beautify this roundabout, it also helps to foster an important identity for the Veterans Memorial Circle,” Winnebago County Board Chairman Joe Chiarelli said. “This mural creates a lasting message that we support our veterans in Winnebago County and we remember the sacrifices of those who served who are no longer with us, many whom are buried nearby in Greenwood Cemetery.”

Chiarelli made those remarks Thursday during a ceremony officially dedicating the mural to local veterans. The dedication included a moment of silence, singing of the national anthem and “America the Beautiful,” and a flag-raising ceremony honoring America’s five military branches. The mural was completed earlier this summer.

 AJ Davis painted this mural in summer 2023 at Veterans Memorial Circle at 1436 N. Main St. in Rockford. It is part of a new Rockford Public Art Trail. (Photo by Ryan Davis Photography/Provided by Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)

The mural was painted by Denver, Colorado-based artist AJ Davis and paid for by sponsorship from Collins Aerospace, which makes two major systems for the F-35 fighter jet, and money Winnebago County Board member Angie Goral dedicated to the project from federal American Rescue Plan. It is one of 44 murals the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau has curated since 2019 through its CRE8IV: transformational art initiative.

“Poppies symbolize the memory of lost soldiers and are an offering to both remember and celebrate those lost lives,” Davis said in a statement. “The soldier was referenced from a variation of 25 AI-generated faces, prompted to utilize facial features from every race to cultivate an authentic approach to creating a figure that was focused on inclusivity.”

The camouflage and the cap of the military member on the mural are intentionally nondescript to represent all branches of the armed forces.

 Artist AJ Davis stands in front of his mural in June 2023 at North Main and Auburn streets in Rockford. (Photo by Ryan Davis Photography/Provided by Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Veterans Memorial Circle is the name for the roundabout at Auburn and Main streets that stands as a tribute to veterans. It is maintained by a group of volunteers who keep it colorful from spring through fall by planting, watering and maintaining several flower beds.

A commemorative flag was installed at the site to accompany the mural and pay homage to the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Dozens of veterans attended the ceremony, and visitors bureau CEO John Groh said this mural is one more way to honor them for their service and sacrifice.

“This project stands as a testament to our collective appreciation for their bravery and dedication to our nation,” he said.

 Marine Corps. veteran Stanley “Curly” Thompson salutes during the National Anthem on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, at a ceremony to dedicate a new mural near Veterans Memorial Circle and North Main and Auburn streets in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

 Jessica Gunn, sergeant first class in the Illinois Army National Guard, salutes during the National Anthem on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, during a dedication ceremony of a new mural paying tribute to veterans at North Main and Auburn streets in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
 AJ Davis paints a mural on June 19, 2023, at North Main and Auburn streets in Rockford. (Photo by Ryan Davis Photography/Provided by Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)
 A mural by AJ Davis is seen June 21, 2023, at North Main and Auburn streets in Rockford. The mural pays tribute to local veterans. (Photo by Ryan Davis Photography/Provided by Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)

This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at  or follow him on Twitter at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas and Threads @thekevinhaas

Passenger Rail Service To Return To Rockford For First Time Since 1981

Metra passenger rail in Rockford A Metra train sits on tracks spanning the Rock River near Davis Park on Thursday, July 6, 2023, for an announcement about passenger rail returning to Rockford for the first time since 1981. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

ROCKFORD — Passenger rail service is returning to Rockford for the first time since the Black Hawk route ceased operations in 1981.

Gov. JB Pritzker and other state officials visited the city Thursday to announce the return of rail. While some details are not yet know, we did learn more about how rail will connect between Chicago and Rockford.

Read the full story here: Passenger rail to return to Rockford for the first time since 1981

Here are 12 key questions about the service:

When will the first trains start running?

The first trains are expected to start running in late 2027, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Who is the service provider?

Metra was selected by IDOT, which was also considering Amtrak.

Metra already has commuter rail serving the city of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs via the Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway and other rail lines.

“They realized that Metra already has a regional rail service in Chicagoland,” state Sen. Steve Stadelman said of IDOT’s decision. “It already goes to Elgin, and extending out to Rockford will hopefully be a relatively efficient lift.

“It just taps into the Chicagoland public transit system already, so it seems to make more sense logistically.”

How long will the trip to Chicago take?

The estimated travel time between Rockford and Chicago is 95 minutes, according to  Jim Derwinski, CEO and executive director of Metra.

“It needs to be car competitive,” Stadelman said. “If people can take the train into Chicago for the same or less time than it takes you to drive and at a competitive price point, people will use that service.

“Again, it has to be car competitive, and all signs are that it will be.”

Where will the Rockford station be?

The precise location hasn’t been determined, but it will be in downtown, Stadelman said.

The original plan was for the station to be located next to the Embassy Suites by Hilton Rockford Riverfront Hotel, but that’s not likely anymore.

“They’re looking a little further west on the (Union Pacific) tracks maybe a block or two that way,” Stadelman said during an interview in Davis Park. “It will be downtown. It will be on Main Street, just not quite sure where.”

How much will tickets cost?

That’s unclear at this time.

“That we have not got into yet,” Derwinski said. “As the operator we’re going to be working with the Illinois Department of Transportation to figure out what that price point will be.”

What will the schedule be?

The exact schedule has not been determined, but there will be two round trips seven days per week, Derwinski said.

“The current base proposal is two trains in and out seven days a week,” he said.

Where will be the stops be?

There will be stops along the route from Rockford to Chicago in Huntley and Belvidere. The exact locations hasn’t been determined.

Derwinski said Metra is working with IDOT and the communities along the line to determine the location of stops and stations.

Will there be an additional tax to bring train here?

No, Pritzker said.

“The whole idea here is that in the Rebuild Illinois capital plan, that those dollars, which come from everybody that’s here but also all across the state, is helping to pay for Rockford and the development here,” Pritzker said. “There’s no plan for any tax on people who are boarding the trains here.”

How is it paid for?

The project is funded through $275 million from the bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital program.

“The state will be funding IDOT and Union Pacific to upgrade those tracks,” Stadelman said. “I got those dollars in the capital plan four years ago, that’s the money that will generate the improvements on the tracks.”

Who owns the tracks?

The track from Elgin to Chicago is owned by Metra, and the track Elgin to Rockford is owned by Union Pacific, which operates freight on the rail now.

“There will be a trackage agreement to operate on their property,” Derwinski said.

What improvements need to be made for the tracks?

Engineering studies will soon be conducted to determine the scope of track improvements needed. As it stands now, the rail cannot support speeds of up to 80 mph needed for passenger service.

Among the improvements are grade crossings, upgraded bridges and double-tracking at various locations.

“The list goes on and on and on,” Derwinski said.

How can I keep updated on the progress?

A website, chicagotorockfordrail.org, provides an overview of the project. You can sign up for status updates that will come in the coming months.

Access this online article here: https://www.rockrivercurrent.com/2023/07/06/rail-q-a-answers-to-12-key-questions-about-passenger-rail-between-rockford-and-chicago/?fbclid=PAAaZ_jO_dlgbUsEx37lm5BPpnLy9LeYmLf5sgSnC6qXbT79qMJ-SMuBZ3GR8_aem_AY2PbeoXjJCDmodyB-hVAeMXtVLrZiFDxBwogUIgWEirSVrgVuu63UlCLP8WZZ54His

This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at  or follow him on Twitter at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas

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