Autumn Drive: A Look Back
Autumn Drive remains true to its vision after 30-plus years of growth.
Autumn Drive – one of the largest weekend events in the county – has remained true to its original concept: a neighborhood banding together to celebrate the harvest, art, food and history (find this year’s event details here).
Let’s go back to the beginning 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 first Autumn Drive attracted about 700 curious people.
The four original artists now number more than 100. The first orchard joined in seven years ago. There now are four.
The 1885 Perkins Hall at the corner of Garden Valley and Franklinville roads has become the hub of Autumn Drive where many folks start their adventure. 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.
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.
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.
Today some 10,000 visitors pass through. All eagerly anticipate the third weekend in October. We hope you are one of them! Maps and other information are available here.