Rochelle News-Leader | Baldwin Receives Above & Beyond Award for Tourism

ROCHELLE — On August 25, longtime Colonial Flowers & Gifts owner Naomi Baldwin received the Blackhawk Waterways Tourism in Northwest Illinois Above & Beyond for Tourism Award at the organization’s annual dinner at the Chicagoland Skydiving Center.

Blackhawk Waterways seeks to promote tourism in Carroll, Lee, Ogle, and Whiteside counties in northwestern Illinois.

Baldwin has owned Colonial Flowers & Gifts since 1968 and has spent those 54 years trying to bring customers and improvements to the downtown and business community.

The tourism award surprised Baldwin, who attended the dinner but was not expecting it. His daughter, Robin, and other family members were notified ahead of time, and Robin presented the award to Baldwin.

“I’m very rarely surprised by things,” Baldwin said. “I can usually tell. I got emotional that night, especially with my daughter doing the presentation. I guess that makes me proud, because I really love Rochelle. I think Rochelle is really a great city. We have so much to offer, so promoting Rochelle is easy. From the railroad park to the Chicagoland Skydiving Center. Talking about what Rochelle has to offer is easy for me. I feel blessed to be where I am.”

Baldwin’s efforts also included helping launch the Lincoln Highway Heritage Festival, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. She said she has enjoyed seeing all the changes made to downtown over the years and enjoys showing family and friends the improvements when they visit.

“It’s easy for me to promote Rochelle, and along with that I promote my own business,” Baldwin said. “As visitors from out of town come in, it just adds to our economy. My family, we like to stop in small towns and just visit them. I think that’s what a lot of people do. people when they come here, or if they are just here to visit.

Baldwin said downtown businesses and Rochelle as a whole working as a team are key to tourism success. Having more visitors helps the whole community.

If Baldwin doesn’t have something a customer is looking for in her shop, she’ll send it to another local business. Sometimes people stop by Colonial Flowers & Gifts just to ask directions. Baldwin has maps with all the downtown businesses on them.

“It’s what brings it all together,” Baldwin said. “Companies that work as a team are wins for everyone. We show them the map and say, ‘You have to go see this, this and this. We send people to the library and the museum. Downtown is absolutely stunning thanks to the city. The improvement over the past four years has been tremendous.

After 54 years, Baldwin still enjoys driving down the Lincoln Freeway to downtown and seeing the mural, streets, flowers, and businesses. It has not slowed down its efforts to promote tourism. She spent Tuesday night in a meeting discussing fall plans for downtown.

“I just keep doing it,” Baldwin said. “It’s just part of my DNA, I guess.”