Sock it to Me

By: Joe Hamilton
By: Joe Hamilton

Will a giant puppet knock the socks off tourists? Midway Village Museum is putting its best foot forward in hopes that it will.

A seven-foot sock monkey named Nelson isn't monkeying around. He will travel to different destinations that Rockford flies to, to try and educate people in Las Vegas, Orlando and Puerto Rico on Rockford’s past.

"He is an ambassador and a good luck charm. Rockford needs some good luck,” said Barbara Gerry.

Gerry is the great granddaughter of John Nelson who invented the sock- knitting machine in Rockford in 1879. The sock monkey is named after him. At one point, sock manufactures in the area were producing 2.6 million seamless socks a year, but the invention of nylon finally put a hole in the area sock business. Now, Midway Village wants to create awareness of this “feet”.

"This is good for all of us. It brings a fun approach to History...and could give tourism a jump as well, said Dan Bartlett, Midway Village Exhibit Manager.

As Nelson, the giant sock monkey, traveled through the Greater Rockford Airport, passengers knew that something was “afoot.” Nelson bought his own ticket and will enjoy his own seat on the flight to Orlando. But can a giant sock really bring tourism to Rockford?

"Sure. Why not?” said Ginny McCarthy.

"It’s kind of weird, but people will definitely notice it,” said Karin Rodd.

But even if those passengers are wrong and tourism in Rockford suffers agony of defeat, at least Nelson will have a smooth ride through security, because this passenger won't have to take his shoes off.

As Nelson travels around the country the hope is that an old company can sock history to tourists and bring more foot traffic here to Rockford.

Midway Village will hold a sock exhibit later this summer to commemorate sock-knitting companies that left a footprint in the Rockford area. And in case you're wondering, the socks that Nelson Sock Company made are still being sold in Rockford; they're just being made by a different company.


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