Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, Rockford’s Tropical Treasure, Celebrates Five Years

ROCKFORD, IL – Five years ago today, Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, 1354 N. 2nd Street, Rockford, opened to the public for the first time.  The Rockford Park District broke ground on the Conservatory project on August 2, 2009, and a little more than two years later, construction on the tropical treasure was complete. Since that time, the Conservatory has welcomed 236,595 visitors.  Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens is named after the Nicholas family, who in March 2006 announced their donation of $2,150,000 toward the Conservatory project in honor of their parents, William and Ruby Nicholas.  In addition to the generous donation from the Nicholas family, nearly 1,600 donors, along with several other partners, invested $13.5 million to complete the project.  All construction‐related expenses for the Conservatory project were funded by private donations, along with state and private grants.  

“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the community’s continued confidence and support.  Throughout the last five years, the landscape inside the Conservatory has continued to expand and grow, we’ve picked fruit right off the tree and shared with guests to enjoy, new and unique exhibits have called the Conservatory home, and we’ve celebrated important milestones and heartwarming moments with many of our guests.  This facility and our guests continue to inspire us to dream,” said Kelly Moore, Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens Facility Manager.    

Bright Year Ahead - Lots to Celebrate

In 2017, guests will see Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens in a new light! Internationally known artist Bruce Munro is coming to Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens in 2017 with a garden-wide sculpture exhibition called Bruce Munro: LIGHT. A British native, Munro is known for his large light-based sculpture installations. The Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens exhibition is Munro’s first exhibit in the Chicago region, and visitors are expected to travel from Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee, Bloomington-Normal, Quad Cities, and beyond. Bruce Munro: LIGHT will run from June 3, 2017 through November 5, 2017.  The exhibition is Munro’s eighth large-scale garden exhibition in the U.S. The Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens campus will provide a stunning backdrop for eight sculptures, including Munro’s iconic Field of Light and Water-Towers. Two new works will also debut: Sun, a monumental globe suspended inside the Conservatory, and Don’s Flamingos, a playful homage to the designer of the pink lawn flamingo, Don Featherstone.   For more information about Bruce Munro: LIGHT visit

During this exhibit, Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens will have extended evening hours and a variety of special events. 

Save the date for the following 2017 events!
•    Opening Party - Friday, June 2
•    Wine & Roses Annual City of Gardens and Sinnissippi Rose Garden fundraiser - Thursday, June 15
•    Moonlight Mixer Dance Parties Saturdays, July 15, August 19, and September 16
•    Hops in the Garten Beer Sampling Event - Saturday, October 14
•    Food & Beverage Light Lounge - enjoy evening cocktails and appetizers in the outdoor Light Lounge, located on the Riverview Terrace (ages 21+). Café service and other food vendors will be available. 

Sponsorship and Volunteer Opportunities

The majority of Bruce Munro: LIGHT is funded though the Nicholas Family Foundation Endowment, although additional support in the form of sponsorships, donations, and volunteers is needed to make this exhibition truly world-class.  A variety of sponsorship levels are available, and anyone interested should contact Nicole Engelbart, Rockford Park District Corporate Partnership Manager, at 815-969-4095 or

Installation of the exhibit will take roughly four to six weeks.  Throughout the installation and during the exhibit, Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens will need volunteers to not only help create the sculptures, but to give tours.  Exact dates and times for volunteer opportunities are still being identified, but interested volunteers can head to to sign up to help. 

Little-Known Facts about Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens
•    Approved as the Rockford Park District’s Centennial Signature Project February 14, 2006
•    Temperature inside the Conservatory is between 70˚and 105˚F
•    Garden Gate Gifts entry is a unique one-of-a-kind gate designed and created by local artist
John Verl McNamara using recycled metal from Joseph Behr & Sons
•    Lobby mural is by Colorado artist William Hueg, and is 142 feet long
•    Lobby terrazzo floor, “River Within,” by Linda Beaumont; installed by Northern Illinois Terrazzo and Tile Co.
•    Every plant or tree has a label with the common and Latin name
•    Bismarck Palm weighs over 6000 lbs (3 tons)
•    Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens is a Gold LEED Certified facility