Autumn Drive: Country Roads, Fall Colors Fun for All

04 October 2011
Written by 
Published in Places

The flavors and colors of autumn meet the treasures of local artisans during Autumn Drive — a different kind of fall festival.

Spanning a long weekend each October, Garden Valley Road between Woodstock and Marengo — generally quiet stretch of country road — transforms into Autumn Drive, a massive fall festival featuring farm stands, art, crafts, antiques, pumpkins, games, rides and more. Oh, and don’t forget kettle corn — who doesn’t love the salty-sweet crunch of a fresh, warm batch of kettle corn on a cool autumn day.

Today, Robert Blue, owner of Blue Eagle Pottery, along with neighbors Joe and Lois Grasser and Melissa Stake, organize the event, which takes place this year 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from October 14 through 16.

This annual gathering — now in its 24th year — is a destination well worth the trip, Blue said. “Set your GPS to ‘16105 Garden Valley Road’ and come out to this authentic fall festival out in the country,” he added. “Longtime visitors look forward to this every October and we enjoy seeing new faces each year.”

IIt’s a true family event that offers something for everyone. “You can pick-your-own pumpkins, enjoy a hayride, go-kart ride or barrel ride, warm up next to the fire pit and roast marshmallows, stroll through the corn maze or just sit back and enjoy some music,” Blue said.

The pumpkin launcher is a highly popular attraction, and even adults like jumping into the huge corn box — which is like a ball pit, but with corn.

On the leisure side of things, Autumn Drive is an opportunity to “look at beautiful artwork, find wonderful things to purchase for your homes, have lunch, listen to music and just have a very enjoyable day out in the country,” Blue explained. “You can really relax at each stop. It’s so eclectic. Each stop along the way offers a unique country experience.”

Local organizations are also well repre-sented, so stop by to learn more about the food pantries of Marengo and Woodstock, McHenry County Historical Society, Wood-
stock High School Cheering Squad, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Faith in Action of McHenry County, church groups and animal shelters. “We wanted to give back to the community through Autumn Drive,” Blue said.

How it All Began
 Autumn Drive started nearly a quarter of a century ago when artists living and working along this stretch of country road joined forces to “provide a fun fall weekend for visitors,” according to Blue. “It is about neighbors helping neighbors, and neighbors enjoying each other and getting to know each other.”

Autumn Drive was the brainchild of watercolorist Fran Stake, her art instructor husband Vern and their neighbors, including Blue and farmer Henry Boi. The group was inspired by garage sales held in Algonquin. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we do that, but with an emphasis on the arts?’” Blue recalled. “Fourteen of us signed up.”
    This year, more than 15,000 visitors are expected to visit Autumn Drive.

Autumn Drive Attractions
Be sure to make all of the stops along this year’s Autumn Drive route!
1. Cody’s Farm Fresh Vegetables: Homegrown vegetables/pumpkins, fall decorations, food, barrel rides, corn box, corn maze, pumpkin launcher, children’s tractor track, antique tractors, music and crafters.
2. RB’s Concessions: Great food and inside dining available, plus crafts, sweatshirts and novelties.
3. The Rivers Edge Farm: In-season farm products, and
photographic scenes of cities, flowers and animals.
4. Lisk Family & Friends: Nicely priced pumpkins, squash, Indian corn and straw for sale, plus handcrafted items and Philip Lauf’s  locally produced honey. Lunch Barn: Enjoy lunch and help out the McHenry County community — all proceeds are donated to Faith in Action of McHenry County (assisting seniors to stay in their own homes); and the Marengo and Woodstock food pantries.
5. Karen Schneider/Ceramic Bug Supplies: Twelve new crafters, including old favorites like Sweet Shop Gourmet (caramel apples and Italian ice); Cyndee’s Country Treasures (candles and holiday decorations); Rhinestone (crystal jewelry, bread, soup and dip mixes); S&C (original gems); as well as toys, books, art, knitting, slumped wine bottles and Christmas decorations.
6. Grasser Antiques: Antique furniture, trunks, white elephant sales, linens, vintage and costume jewelry and books, plus Lois’ Kitchen Corner.
7. A Bit of Everything: Handmade candles and soaps, one-of-a-kind handmade jewelry, Tastefully Simple, Sue Bitler Photography, floral items, a food cart and Riverside Chocolate Factory.
8. Countryside Flower Shop, Nursery & Garden Center: Special flower sale from this Crystal Lake nursery featuring the colors of fall.   
9. Blue Eagle Pottery: Handmade, functional and home decorative pottery (porcelain and stoneware), glass jewelry, holiday decorations and homemade dog treats by the “Liver Lady”; seven crafters outside including metal, wood, jewelry and clothing; gold and silver jewelry by Nancy Krahn; and McHenry County Living offering free issues of the county’s favorite local magazine.
10. McHenry County Historical Society: Visit the 1885 original Seneca Township Hall, now called Perkins Hall. Walk back in time for handmade articles, unique local historical books, historical and picturesque note cards, used books, quilt raffle and freshly popped Wisconsin kettle corn.
11. Grace Farm: This purveyor of local, organically grown asparagus, raspberries and Icelandic wool will offer quilts/quilt supplies, weaving supplies, baskets, furniture and woodwork.
12. Iron Forger
13. All Seasons Apple Orchard: Apples, caramel apples and cider, as well as pumpkins, local honey and more.
    Pick up an entry drawing for a door prize and have it initialed at each stop to be eligible to win one of several gift certificates that have been donated by the participating landowners.
>> Visit www.autumndrive.net for more!

More Fun on the Farm

  • All Seasons Apple Orchard (14510 Route 176 in Woodstock, 815-338-5637, www.allseasonsorchard.com) welcomes visitors to pick their own applies and pumpkins, travel the corn maze, visit the petting zoo, enjoy a hayride, the country farm market and a meal from the indoor grill.
  • Meadow View Farm (17020 Streit Rd. in Harvard, 815-482-0908, www.meadowviewmaze.com) corn maze, pumpkin patch, hayrides, moon walks, a hay maze for younger children, food, fall décor, campfires for private parties and more.
  • Red Barn Farm Market Pumpkin Festival (3500 S. Rt. 47 in Woodstock, 815-338-4343, www.redbarn.us) is family fun, with corn mazes, a spooky house for children, farm animals, Mom's Kitchen, whimsical pumpkin figures, squash, gourds, potatoes, popcorn and pumpkins galore.
  • Richardson Adventure Farm (9407 Richardson Rd. in Spring Grove, 815-675-9729, www.richardsonfarm.com) featuring an incredible maze, zip line ride, pumpkins, kid’s play area, wagon rides, ORBiting and home-brewed beer.
  • Royal Oak Farm Market Pumpkinfest (15908 Hebron Rd. in Harvard, 815-648-4141, www.royaloakfarmorchard.com) features giant pumpkins, ornamental pumpkins and gourds, hayrides, the Royal Oak Express, petting zoo, carousel, playhouses, the Country Kitchen, apple barn, bakery and more (closed on Sundays).
  • Shades of Autumn at Stade's Farm and Market (3709 W. Miller Rd. in McHenry, 815-675-6396, www.stadesfarmandmarket.com) includes a fun house, corn maze, barrel train, combine rides, hayrides to the pumpkin field, cattle trailer maze, petting zoo, pumpkin cannon and free live entertainment.
  • Tom's Farm Market and Greenhouse Fall Festival of Fun (10214 Algonquin Rd. in Huntley, 847-669-3421, www.tomsfarmmarket.com) has pumpkins, pony rides, face painting, farm animals, a corn maze, homemade fudge, baked goods and Tom's Country Café.
  • Von Bergen's Country Market Fall Fest (9805 Rt. 173 in Hebron, 815-648-2332, www.vonbergens.com) has pumpkins, farm animals, squash, gourds, Indian corn, mums, a corn maze, chidren's maze, pumpkin barrel ride, craft corner, seasonal vegetables, jams, honey and more.