According to festival history Autumn on Parade started back in 1970 by a group of seven volunteers wanting to showcase the area's many fine homemade treats such as bittersweet and apples. Those seven vendors sold their items on Third Street on a rainy weekend in September.
As the festival began to take shape, the Farmers' Market was moved to the Courthouse Square where the stately Ogle County Courthouse, age 121, provides an impressive backdrop for the event.
Since then, Autumn on Parade, now held the first weekend of October, has stayed a volunteer based organization and has grown to include more than 180 vendors and other events such as the Harvest Time Parade, Auto Classic, Casey's Donut Eating Contest and many more family orientated events!
Imagine for a moment the task of encapsulating the essence of 50 years of a much loved and highly anticipated community festival. An event whose seeds have taken root in the hearts of countless volunteers who have donated time, expertise, and often their own dollars to create an experience that brings families and friends together year after year after year. Then add the tens of thousands of annually attending participants, who share the typical busyness of life, yet dedicate this weekend to a regathering. A reconnection to simple fun, good food, and heartfelt reminiscences.
To begin the process, we open and delve into box after box after box of archives, revealing log books, dusty trinkets and memorabilia, crinkled newspaper clippings, creased and fading images of times gone by. Much of the information is familiar to some, and depending on your age and relationship to Oregon and this festival of ours, you may have had a hand in it somewhere along the way …
Byron Hutchins moved to Oregon in 1969. He served as an advisor with the University of Illinois Extension Service helping to create several committees for the betterment of small communities. One of these committees was for a festival. He was joined by other local leaders- Ray Appler, James Barnes, Ron Fafnis, Anne Jones and Cecelia Zimmerman. A contest was held to name the event, and Kathryn Gelander won a $25 Savings Bond gifted by the Oregon Woman’s Club with her entry of “Autumn on Parade”.
Seven booths lined up on Third Street on a rainy day in 1970 which has grown into an average of 180 booths surrounding courthouse square. Determination, some dreaming and creative input-perhaps sprinkled with a few lofty ideas- has led to many additions and changes along the way. We’ve seen pig scrambles, canoe rallies, a fishing derby, Civil War Encampments, Quilt Shows, Big Wheel Races, the Duck Dash, many years of the Antique Tractor Shows and Auto Classics, as well as our ever fabulous parade. We shine a light on our local history like Chana School and the Depot Restoration, and use our phenomenal parks and their services to support the needs of an event this size. Local civic and not for profit organizations form the backbone of the Food Court, and then put their hard earned profits right back into our community. City and Emergency services work closely to keep us safe, creating a seamless transition from managing a population of 3800 to an instant 75,000 passing through the community throughout the festival weekend.
We can share historical data, and oh so many photos from our hold it in your hands albums to our tuck it in your shirt pocket flash drives. But the essence of Autumn on Parade? That’s the spirit of the people. The people who work tirelessly all year round to create this one of a kind experience and who are then joined by the people who attend, filling this event with life and our community with the spirit of kinship and kindness.
This is Autumn on Parade!
Festival Volunteer Board Members