The recent premiere of the new series A League of Their Own on Prime Video along with the upcoming 30th anniversary of Penny Marshall’s beloved film of the same name has generated a renewed interest in The All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) and The Rockford Peaches, the baseball team that both the series and the film center around.
The series has garnered equal amounts praise and controversy over its reimagining of the story presented in the film with its more honest representation of the women’s lives.
In this version of the story, there are women who have sex with women, explorations of gender roles, a prominently featured transman, and a lesbian bar run by Rosie O’Donnell (who famously starred in the original film). Abbi Jacobson (Broad City), a queer woman herself, co-created the series and stars in it. In addition, Maybelle Blair, or ‘All the Way May’ as fans of the film will remember her, has been on hand to help promote the show and verify its authenticity given that she recently came out of the closet at 95 years of age earlier this year.
With all this discussion about the show and the historical nature of the story, naturally, there has been a desire by fans to explore Rockford, Illinois itself as a way of immersing themselves in the lives of these pioneering athletes. The residents of Rockford have been more than happy to step up to the plate and answer the call of the fanbase. Indeed, the community has come together to celebrate its rich history as a city conducive to women’s empowerment with historical highlights set up and featured throughout the city. A new historical trail now offers fans a nostalgic journey to experience the places the famous baseball team frequented during their heyday and to learn more about the women’s baseball team who paved a way for women athletes and inspired others to join the AAGPBL.
Residents will tell you that Rockford’s roots of elevating women go beyond sports. Today, a host of female-owned businesses thrive in this city that is steadily attracting talent and visitors, as well as revitalizing its downtown. Think Big – Rockford’s only entrepreneurial support center to solely focus on women and minority-owned businesses – helps startups launch, grow, and thrive. A recent grant from the city is further bolstering Think Big’s work, providing a building for business development opportunities.
In celebration of this progressive city, we present a guide to the city of Rockford, Illinois that includes stops on the Rockford Peaches Fan Trail and a list of female-owned businesses that are keeping the revolutionary spirit of the city alive.
Rockford Peaches Fan Trail
- Beyer Stadium: This stadium was once home to the Rockford Peaches from 1943 to 1954 and was referred to as “Peach Orchard” by the team. Demolished in the 1990s, the ticket booth was all that remained of the stadium — until reconstruction commenced in 2010. New life — and a new backstop, scoreboard, and diamond — was breathed into the stadium. The historical field still holds within its stands the history of the iconic women’s baseball team, as well as the current successes of the Rockford Starfires. A women’s team formed in 2012, the Starfires have continued to embody the stadium’s legacy of providing a platform for women athletes, playing the same hardball the Peaches famously played in the 1940s. To attend a Starfires game, you need not pay admission — just donate a non-perishable food item. Location: 245 15th Avenue, Rockford, IL 61104
- Sinnissippi Park: Sinnissippi Park in downtown Rockford is located on the east side of N. Second St. and is a beautiful wooded public park. The Peaches often attended picnics here, many hosted by the Peaches Fans association. The Peaches would play short games at the ball diamond prior to playoff games between the top teams in the league. Sinnissippi Park continues to inspire community culture and gathering, hosting musical talent in its band shell through summer in a series titled “Sounds of Summer”. View the 2022 schedule here to plan your visit. Location: 1401 N 2nd Street, Rockford, IL 61107
Additional activities nearby include:
- Within the Sinnissippi Park and situated along the banks of our beautiful Rock River, explore the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, bringing the tropics to the Midwest. The facility is the third largest conservatory in Illinois, offering an 11,000-square-foot plant exhibition area complete with water features, seating areas, and sculptures, all in a tropical plant setting. The beauty continues outdoors with the Eclipse Lagoon, complete with two fountains and a waterfall, a pedestrian bridge, patio areas, and a walkway connecting the Conservatory to the Sinnissippi Rose Garden.
- Take a 20-minute stroll along the river and find yourself at the widely popular Anderson Japanese Gardens, known as one of the top Japanese Gardens in the country. Immerse yourself in this oasis and explore the mid-spring grounds. Tucked away by a hillside near the Rock River, this garden started as a backyard project of the Anderson family and has since grown into one of Rockford’s most iconic landmarks.
- Peaches Mural: In Rockford’s Midtown district, recently painted colors and shapes blend to form an eye-catching, extensive mural that pays homage to the Rockford Peaches. Designed by artists Jenny Ustick and Atatlie Gagnet, the art piece is one of a dozen works created as part of this year’s CRE8V: Transformational public art project, led by the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. The Rockford Area CVB hosted a block party to celebrate the mural on July 13 — the paint on the mural was still wet from the finishing touches made that day. Location: 206 Seventh St., Rockford, IL 61101
- Coronado Theater: The Coronado was built in 1927 as one of the largest of Rockford’s theaters, and at that time was a movie palace. The Rockford Peaches team played in Rockford, IL from 1943-1954 and frequently went to the theater for recreation/entertainment. One of the upcoming episodes of the new Amazon Prime series will focus on an outing the Peaches team took to the theater to watch the Wizard of Oz, which came out in 1939. Also known as “Rockford’s Wonder Theatre,” the Coronado Performing Arts Center was selected by Amazon Prime to host the new Peaches TV show premiere over this past 4th of July weekend. The 1920s building, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, simulates an outdoor theatre experience that hosts everybody from musical performers to comedy acts. The theater was voted the No.1 Architectural Wonder of the United States in an AOL/U.S Travel Association poll in 2010. Location: 314 North Main Street, Rockford, IL 61101
- Midway Village Museum: Perhaps one of the most informative stops along the Peaches’ fan trail, the Midway Museum showcases the ‘Girls of Summer’ exhibit, preserving authentic Peaches memorabilia — think uniforms, gloves, trophies, bats, and pictures — that tell the 12-year story of the team. Other exhibits give a glimpse into the rich history of Rockford, and the adjoining Victorian-era village offers a walk back in time through the Midwestern 1900s. Location: 6799 Guilford Road, Rockford, IL 61107
- Prairie St. Brewing Co: To end your sightseeing along the Peaches’ fan trail, sip on a Peach Wheat Beer — brewed to commemorate the iconic Rockford women’s baseball team — at Illinois’ oldest brewery. Prairie Street Brewing Company was once an abandoned historic brewery but restored within the last decade it now features riverside dining and charming architecture inside and out. In 1849, an English beer enthusiast named Jonathan Peacock settled on the banks of the Rock River at 200 Prairie Street with one thing in mind: brewing his own beer using time-tested European methods and locally sourced ingredients. Many decades later in 2013, Prairie Street Brewing Co was founded by three modern-day beer enthusiasts in the very same building, employing the same approach. Location: 200 Prairie Street, Rockford, IL 61107
Rockford Female-Owned Businesses
- SPoRT Makeup was born out of a desire to commemorate the Peaches’ 75th anniversary. Locally developed, the line began with a “Peach Diva” lipstick and blossomed into an entire array of Rockford Peaches-inspired makeup. The company is owned by the International Women’s Baseball Center, based in Rockford.
- Owner of Bath & Body Fusion Jenny Ralston started selling her products at Rockford City Market in 2011, after she was left unfulfilled with her life working in Corporate America. The birth of Bath and Body Fusion afforded her a new outlook on life, as she began touching customers’ lives with her bath bombs, scrubs, and creams — some of which have gained dedicated followings for treating eczema, psoriasis, scars, stretch marks, and burns.
- A Rockford woman is at the helm of CacaoCuvee Chocolate, whose chocolates have been featured in Oprah Winfrey’s magazine gift guide twice. When told she couldn’t start a chocolate business on her own, Susan Pitkin did it anyway.
- After the death of Emily Hurd’s father, she realized life is short. So, she was spurred to marry her high school sweetheart and start The Norwegian in their hometown of Rockford. It started with a crumbling building unknowingly laden with problems, but, with a community-backed Kickstarter campaign and the drive to save a historical building, a warm, eclectic restaurant now reflects on Rockford’s Scandinavian roots.
- Zina Horton bought family-owned business Zammuto’s in 2007. A man showed up and repeatedly told her that the restaurant’s granitas were all wrong. That man was Joe Zammuto, whose father had originally started the business. With coaching from Joe Zammuto and support from him until his death, Zammuto’s experienced a revival as an authentic, homemade Rockford favorite restaurant.
- Janene’s Event Design Studio & Social Café opened in March 2020 as a special event supply company. The day after, the city shut down. So, entrepreneur Janene Stephenson had to pivot her business model. Now, her storefront operates as a showroom for other entrepreneurs. This go-getter also led the effort for local initiative “Buy Black Weekend Pop Up Shop,” an event series this past February.
- Chintana Sengchannavong immigrated to the United States from Thailand at age 11 as a refugee. Today, she’s the owner of Sisters Thai Café, but it’s been a long journey to get to here. Her mother and eight sisters moved to the U.S. with only $100 and the talent for cooking authentic food.
For more information or to plan your getaway to Rockford click here.