This weekend rural Woodstock opens its doors to a festival of autumnal flare during the 29th annual Autumn Drive. This family-friendly fest is nestled among the changing leaves along rustic country roads in central McHenry County and offers food, drink, produce, art, crafts and more.
The tradition began decades ago, when Woodstock residents Henry Boi and Fran Stake visited a multifamily garage sale and decided Woodstock could benefit from a similar event. Instead of a garage sale, however, those participating would showcase not only their wares but their talents as well.
Twelve neighbors participated in that inaugural event, but currently the yearly fest boasts a total of 23 neighbors opening their homes and sharing their bountiful harvest and creative works over three days. Robert Blue of Blue Eagle Pottery has participated in the Autumn Drive almost since its inception. He took over organizing the event 10 years ago.
“In many neighborhoods, you don’t always know your neighbors. I love my neighbors here. They are so kind, and they really love doing the show,” Blue said.
Part of the reason the neighbors enjoy it so much, Blue continued, is that everyone can participate. “The Autumn Drive is great because, if you are an artist, you can sell your art. If you are a farmer, you can sell produce. If you make jewelry, you can sell your jewelry. And, if you want to do a garage sale, you can do that, too,” Blue said.
When he took over as the Autumn Drive organizer, he focused his attention on some of the details that often are overlooked – one of which was creating a site map to assist visitors. Blue said the map has made the drive more accessible and has brought in even more visitors.
According to Blue, there are between 1,200 and 1,500 visitors over the course of three days.
“When the neighbors enjoy what they do, the customers enjoy it, too,” Blue continued.
The approximately 9 square miles gives visitors an opportunity to take a leisurely drive through the country while offering a unique shopping experience along with family-friendly fun.
According to Blue, the Autumn Drive’s 23 locations provide wagon rides, pumpkin picking, apple picking, petting zoos, corn mazes and apple launchers in addition to brats and hot dogs, kettle corn, jams, honey, crafts, pottery, art and vintage jewelry among other things.
The greatest draw is the venue – Woodstock residents open their homes and their barns to visitors. Blue suggests using 16105 Garden Valley Road as a destination.
“You will come across other open homes along the way; this is a central location,” Blue said.
“The Autumn Drive is a free event, however, there are two locations that require a wristband for visitors to participate in activities such as a magician or apple launchers,” Blue said.
Autumn Drive will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m Friday to Sunday, Oct. 14 to 16, rain or shine. Information and maps are available at www.autumndrive.net.