Thirty years ago, eight neighbors decided to share some of their talents with the community.

Today, more than 10,000 visitors will wander the properties of 27 neighbors who open their homes and share their talents with an ever-expanding community during the 30th annual Autumn Drive, which takes place in rural Woodstock and Marengo on and around Garden Valley Road.

Photo: Tricia Carzoli

“Autumn Drive is not an art fair, not a farmers market, not a gallery, not an antique sale and not a garage sale; it is all of these things and more,” said Woodstock’s Robert Blue, who organizes, participates in and publicizes the event. Autumn Drive has become one of the largest and most anticipated weekend events in the county. Visitors come from all over to enjoy food, shop for gifts, celebrate the harvest and delve into the holiday spirit – all with the small-town atmosphere for which Autumn Drive is known.

“One unique thing this year is that four of the original stops have participated in all 30 Autumn Drives,” Blue said.

For those 30 years, Grasser’s Antiques has offered 5,000 square feet of jewelry, linens and antique furniture and kitchenwares for purchase. Liske Family and Friends has offered a child-friendly stop complete with inexpensive squash and pumpkins, handmade creations, antiques and Ole Leo’s Honey. And Blue Eagle Pottery — Blue’s business — continues to offer stoneware pottery, jewelry, metal sculpture gourd art, wearables, a booth to support Woodstock Helping Paws and a bake sale supporting Woodstock High School’s dance team.

Photo: Tricia Carzoli

A fourth stop, Ceramic Bug & Crafts, has been involved in the Autumn Drive for all 30 years, but its offerings have changed over the years as ownership and participation has shifted from one generation to the next. New offerings include lunch, sweets, antiques and treasures.

“I think the neighbors like to participate because they enjoy meeting people in the community and they like to share whatever talent they have – whether that be fine art, vintage art, antiques, produce or a garage sale,” Blue said. “There is something for everyone, and I think that is why the community continues to grow and why the neighbors continue to participate year after year. Some take some time off and come back; some participate for one year. We are laid-back and welcoming.”

New stops this year include Rich’s Foxwillow Pines, which will feature three generations of antiques, an estate and barn sale, trees of all sizes and perennials; River Road Relics, which will offer unique antiques, flea market finds restored furniture and functional and fine art; Garden Valley Farms, which will offer quilted items, jewelry, food, pumpkins, Tupperware and handcrafted treasures and home goods; and J. Goebberts U-pick Farm Stand, which will sell fall produce and pumpkins.

Autumn Drive invites the public on a scenic tour of rural McHenry County and provides an intimate opportunity to view farm life while enjoying lunch food, kettle corn, snacks, sweets, books, children’s activities, wagon rides, mazes, donkeys and more. Along with its own 30-year history Autumn Drive also emphasizes local history as well.

The 1885 Perkins Hall – once the center of Franklinville as a stagecoach stop – welcomes guests, while vintage farm tractors and equipment can be spotted throughout the tour and many of the barns themselves are over 140 years old.

Autumn Drive will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday to Sunday, Oct. 20 to 22.

A central address is 16105 Garden Valley Road; however a detailed map with locations can be found at autumndrive.net as well as on Facebook.

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