Local News

Aerial drone footage of McHenry County featured in WTTW special airing Wednesday

RavenStone Castle in Harvard, working steam engine in Union and waterskiing in Fox River Grove shown in ‘Beyond Chicago from the Air’

RavenStone Castle in Harvard

RavenStone Castle in Harvard is architecturally beautiful when seen by visitors standing on the ground in front of it or those staying the night in the European-themed bed and breakfast.

But a new perspective, one that may be equally as impressive, is being offered by a special airing on Chicago’s PBS station WTTW starting 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

It’s called “Beyond Chicago from the Air,” and it features footage captured by an aerial drone at multiple places of cultural and historical significance in McHenry County and across the region.

That means the special will provide a view of RavenStone that co-owner Rose Michel has never seen. She manages the bed and breakfast with her husband Jose, she said, and has never had the chance to fly in a helicopter or otherwise catch an overhead view of the medieval-looking structure.

The drone footage was captured at the property in August, she said, and she didn’t watch the filming but could hear the vehicle floating above.

“We haven’t seen it yet. I hope it turned out OK,” Rose Michel said. “We’re kind of excited.”

She said she at at first did not expect the film crew would only exterior shots taken from high above in the sky.

“It is different. I was sort of surprised how they were going to do it. But I guess it works out, provides a new perspective,” she said.

Among the other highlights of the show will be ski jumping in Fox River Grove, where Olympic athletes train, working steam trains in Union, speedboat racing on the Chain O’Lakes in the summertime and snowmobile racing across the frozen Chain in the winter, as well as the RavenStone.

It was built off the idea exhibited in the special “Chicago from the Air,” which premiered last year with drone footage from around the city after host Geoffrey Baer and colleagues were looking to film safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to WTTW. Using a drone high above the urban environment allowed ample social distance.

That project showcased Chicago’s grid system and industrial roots as well as its natural areas amid dense urban development.

“After finishing ‘Chicago from the Air,’ we quickly realized there were so many more sights we wanted to explore,” Baer said in a news release. “In ‘Beyond Chicago from the Air,’ our viewers will discover stories we’ve never told before, including tales of the Mississippi River, Illinois farmlands and Native American lore – all from the [point of view] of a high-flying drone camera.”

Other places and events to be highlighted in the latest project include the Great River Road highway along the Mississippi River, a winding riverwalk in Naperville, a close-up view of massive wind turbines at 25-square-mile energy farm and fall foliage at Starved Rock State Park.

Additionally, the Native American remains known as Cahokia Mounds, near St. Louis, are prominently featured by the newest show captured from above by drones.

Once the show debuts, it will have an accompanying website where behind-the-scenes commentaries from Baer and producer and director Eddie Griffin are available, and it also dives deeper into the history of the former Native American city of Cahokia and the mounds its people created.

“‘Beyond Chicago from the Air’ tells the stories of our region from a new and different vantage point, illuminating and expounding on its rich and fascinating history,” WTTW President and CEO Sandra Cordova Micek said in the release. “With the power and innovation of drone cameras, we hope to take our curious viewers on an unforgettable journey while inspiring them to explore and discover on their own.”