Hoey: Fall a time for celebrations, attractions

Autumn is in the air, and the recent changing colors of tree leaves and crisp, cool evenings are not the only signs that one of the most exciting times of the year in DeKalb County is upon us. While summer may be the season of festivals, fall is a time of celebrations, attractions and, well, a pretty big local festival, too.

Let’s start with an attraction that this year is connected to a celebration. Malta’s Jonamac Orchard has long been known for its corn maze, which turns frighteningly haunted on Friday and Saturday nights in October.

The folks at Jonamac also have a history of creativity, turning a cornfield not only into a corn maze, but a 10-acre canvas of art.

Over the years, Jonamac's corn maze has acknowledged milestones for DeKalb Ag, Kishwaukee College, Northern Illinois University and a Chicago Blackhawks NHL championship. In 2019, Jonamac's corn maze again takes a page from professional sports by celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Chicago Bears' iconic National Football League franchise. Additional information about the corn maze, apple orchard and all things Jonamac is available at jonamacorchard.com.

While on the subject of celebrations, especially those going on for a century or more, Northern Illinois University is celebrating its 113th homecoming Oct. 19 to 27. Among the many homecoming week activities are concerts, “dec” the campus, community events, a pep rally, the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony and, of course, the 113th homecoming football game with the Huskies taking the University of Akron on Oct. 26.

Sharing the local spotlight with NIU Homecoming is Sycamore’s historic Pumpkin Festival on Oct. 23 to 27. The decorative, carved pumpkins on the courthouse lawn, 10K Pumpkin Run and huge parade Sunday draw thousands to the county from near and far.

Check out the DeKalb County CVB's NIU Homecoming micro website at http://dekalbcountycvb.com/niu-homecoming, which not only highlights homecoming events but also Pumpkin Festival activities and other attractions, events, accommodations and amenities featured in the county this fall.

As we look ahead to November, NIU’s Huskie Stadium will again be the site of the Illinois High School Association State Football Championships Nov. 29 and 30. This year marks the fourth time DeKalb County and NIU will host the high school state football championships, which attracted 26,000 fans and contributed about $1 million to the local economy during the 2017 event.

The football state championships at Huskie Stadium have earned high praise from IHSA leadership, school administrators, coaches, participants and patrons for the fan-friendly and welcoming environment both inside and outside of Huskie Stadium and throughout the local community during championship weekend.

Among the reasons for the event’s success is the support the IHSA Destination DeKalb Host Committee receives from community and regional partners in the form of tournament volunteers and sponsors. Below is a description of the volunteer positions available during the IHSA State Football Championships. IHSA event volunteers serve as ushers, parking attendants and ticket scanners, and assist in the “Spirit Zone” event hospitality area.

This year, the IHSA Destination DeKalb Host Committee is providing an opportunity for monetary compensation to partner groups and organizations throughout the community that are able to secure at least 10 or more volunteers for one or both days of IHSA State Football Championship weekend.

Individuals and groups interested in contributing to a great event that highlights NIU and the local community to students, families and visitors from across the state can register online to volunteer via the newly refreshed IHSA Destination DeKalb website at ihsadestinationdekalb.com/volunteer.

• Brad Hoey is president of the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors.