This year saw the best harvest ever at the ISU Horticulture Center for pumpkins, gourds and squash. (Photo by Carrie Muehling/WJBC)
By Carrie Muehling
NORMAL - A family friendly event this weekend includes all kinds of seasonal activities.
The Illinois State University Autumnal Festival is September 29, which is one week earlier than usual because ISU Homecoming is the following weekend. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, with admission $2.00 for adults, $1.00 for kids ages 3-12 and free for kids under 3. Pumpkins, gourds and squash will be for sale, as well as food during the event. Hay rack rides are $1.00 but all other activities are free.
The event is the main fundraiser for the Horticulture Center, which is an outdoor laboratory for ISU students, as well as students of all ages throughout the community. The money raised during the Autumnal Festival goes back to the center to pay for plants and maintenance.
"We have all of the good fall fun stuff. We have the hayrack rides and the corn maze and a great selection of produce, but we also have the gardens. As they mature and we have our theme each year you get to see them in different colors and different shapes and it's really, I think, kind of a nice part of the whole experience of the day," said Jessica Chambers, director of the ISU Horticulture Center.
New this year is a celebrity pumpkin carving contest, which will be at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. Those pumpkins will then go on a silent auction, with proceeds going to the center. The festival will also include the long standing tradition of Scarecrows on Parade, where families and businesses design scarecrows that will also go on a silent auction. The scarecrows raise money specifically for the children's garden at the center.
The center withstood the drought well, and actually has produced the best harvest ever this year, as pumpkins like the hot and dry conditions. Visitors can also see the newest garden, which is the Garden of Ill-Repute, featuring poisonous or dangerous plants.
The ISU Horticulture Center is located in north Normal on Raab Road, just across from the Corn Crib and Heartland Community College.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.