Rockford Performance Center Lets You Pick A Tune From A Vending Machine

Dec 9, 2020

Most vending machines disperse snacks or maybe a cup of coffee but a northern Illinois performing arts center is taking it up a notch for its fundraiser.

The West Side Show Room in Rockford is introducing the Elf-O-Matic vending machine. Mike Werckle, the artistic director, said the original idea was to have people purchase online gifts and pick them up from the Christmas vending machine. 

“And then the idea grew to, 'Well, what if we had a little elf inside the vending machine who sang you a Christmas carol,'” he said, “'and dispense your gift for you?' And that seemed like a really sort of whimsical experience that we could give for people.”

Werckle explained that this was a safe way to allow people to enjoy the holidays during the pandemic.

“So, in that sense, it's kind of like a fancy curbside pickup, you know, where you go to pick up something that you've purchased,” he said. “But when you get there, there's a show. There’s an experience.”

People can bring their quarantine pod of a maximum of eight people and gifts are given after receipts are verified. There will only be one pod in the room at a time. When participants arrive, they will see "Safety Santa."

“Santa’s behind Plexiglass,” Werckle explained. “But kids of all ages can go up to Santa and talk to him and tell Santa what they might like to get for Christmas and get their picture taken. And then Santa will tell them to go into the next room where they can get the gift from the Elf-O-Matic vending machine.”

The machine has three buttons. Nutlog The Elf will perform either Deck the Halls, Jingle Bells or Let It Snow based on what is chosen. Only one song will be performed per visit so participants would have to purchase more gifts and come at a different time to enjoy another song.

The Elf-O-Matic fundraiser takes place Thursdays through Sundays Dec. 10 through the 20th from 5-8 p.m. at the West Side Show Room. The minimum purchase amount required to see the show is $35.

  • Yvonne Boose is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at