Autumn Drive, one of the largest weekend events in the county, will celebrate 30 years this fall. What better time is there for this destination fest to revisit its beginnings.
History is an integral part of the show. The 1885 Perkins Hall (formally Seneca Town Hall) was the center of Franklinville when it was a stagecoach stop. The freshly painted iconic structure now welcomes guests to Autumn Drive. Antique farm tractors and equipment dot the properties of some of the 140-year-old farmhouses and barns. Several dealers of antiques and collectables conjure up memories of days gone by.
Autumn Drive boasts the customary pumpkins, apples, wagon rides, corn mazes and farm animals. But there also are a growing collection of artists and crafters willing to explain and sell their creations. The show began when watercolor artist Fran Stake and Henry Boi, a farmer and antique collector, got a few neighbors together and pitched the concept of having a produce and art happening. That led to a potluck sign painting parties and a collaborative approach to advertising.
There were eight neighbors along Garden Valley Road that first year; 12 stops by the fifth year and 27 across a six-square-mile area today. The four original artists now number more than 100. The first orchard joined in seven years ago. There now are four.
And the scope of offerings have mushroomed to include jewelry, furniture, kettle corn, fall produce, honey, jams and the popular Lunch Barn – an opportunity to buy hot meals and support worthy causes such as Boy Scout Troop 153, 4H Eagles Club, McHenry County Food Pantry, McHenry County Historical Society, Helping Paws, VFW Scholarship fund, and others dotted around the show.
The first Autumn Drive attracted about 700 curious people. Today some 10,000 visitors pass through. All eagerly anticipate the third weekend in October.
By the ninth year other area farmers brought fall produce, honey, and jams while the Historical Society of McHenry County opened the Seneca town hall and began a fundraiser. The Lunch Barn started and helped raise money for worthy causes and sold hot meals to our patrons. Year 15 it snowed, but folks dressed warm and were thankful that many neighbors had indoor exhibits. Advertising, posters, mailing lists, and signage became more sophisticated.
Early publicity involved a member running off maps on an old mimeograph machine in a church basement. Today there is a website, www.autumndrive.net, a Facebook page, Instagram promotions and a video. For the last eight years Visit McHenry County also has marketed the three-day fest around the region.
And through it all Autumn Drive has remained true to its original concept: a neighborhood banding together to celebrate the harvest while offering produce, antiques, art, crafts – even garage sales – to any visitor around. See for yourself from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 20-22, rain or shine, and discover your treasures around every corner of Autumn Drive.
October 20 - October 22 from 9 am to 5 pm
16105 Garden Valley Rd, Woodstock, IL, United States