FULTON COUNTY – The first two full weekends in the fall, Fulton County celebrates the Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive Fall Festival along 140 miles of the river valley.
While the scenic drive can be taken throughout the year, it’s during the festival this weekend and next that crafts, flea markets, quilt shows, antiques, special events, re-enactments, food and demonstrations dot the landscape. The Spoon River Valley also offers a rich variety of fall colors.
You’ll want to stop and pick up a program for this self-guided tour at Farm King in Canton or Macomb.
As you journey along the drive, keep an eye out for red-and-white logo signs, which designate those who have registered to be part of the fall festival. Visitors are asked to patronize these vendors.
A word of advice, though: Be patient. Delays, slow-moving vehicles, and some general tourist confusion will be in good supply. Relax and enjoy the fall day. Buy an extra baked good to soothe your nerves.
Towns on the drive and a sample of interesting stops throughout the year are:
Astoria: Veterans Memorial Park at state Route 24 and Broadway
Avon: Avon Depot, Avon Public Library, historical homes and Railroad Museum
Banner: Banner Marsh Conservation Area and public boat dock
Bernadotte: Part of the former site of Camp Ellis during World War II, historical steel bridge and only dam on Spoon River
Bernadotte and Babylon: both have iron bridges
Canton: Civil War Monument in Greenwood Cemetery, Ingersoll Manor on North Main Street, Lakeland Park with walking trail, playground in honor of astronaut Steve Nagel and Trinity Lutheran Church - from 9 to 10 a.m. Oct. 7, outside worship service, see mytrinitylutheran.org
Cuba: Cuba United Methodist Church, Cuba Christian Church, first hospital in Fulton County
Duncan Mills: 1897 town hall, replica of covered bridge
Dunfermline: village hall
Ellisville: historic storefronts, Post Office Museum, site of first grist mill on Spoon River, 1891 opera house and old stage curtain
Fairview: Fairview Reformed Church
Farmington: Veterans Memorial at Reed Park, East Fulton Street
Fiatt: burr oak tree, 300 years old on Highway 9
Ipava: Camp Ellis Site, Easley Pioneer Museum, Ipava Log Cabin at Easley Pioneer Museum
Lewistown: Self-Guided Historic Tour available by calling 309-547-4300, Waterford School, Edgar Lee Masters information, Dickson Mounds State Museum, 5 miles southwest of Lewistown
London Mills: Ross Hotel Museum
Smithfield: Brown’s Oakridge Exotics and Zoo near Rural Route 1 and Buckeye Church
Table Grove: Community Church
Vermont: Victorian homes, brochure available, 309-784-2510
If Spoon River sounds familiar, it could be because you’ve read or heard of Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology.” If not, visit the library for a little reading.
Because there’s no particular starting place or a designated ending, visitors on the drive can choose to make their own tour, even taking more than a day to complete their explorations of the area. However, if you start from Peoria, Farmington's Reed Park or Canton are good locations to begin, according to Robbin Kost, fall festival chairperson.
Let's hit the road!
If you go …
What: Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive Fall Festival
When: Friday ans Saturday, and Oct. 13-14, rain or shine
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: 23 stops for festival in Fulton County
Cost: Free; $2 program books available at information booths
Distance: 155 miles from Dixon to Astoria
Information: spoonriverdrive.org or 309-647-8980
Additional starting locations
From Quad Cities or Galesburg: London Mills
Springfield or Decatur: Come through Havana and start at Orchard Hill Farm Apple Orchard and head to Duncan Mills