AOP attendees, vendors excited to be back

Some note different feel to festival, cite COVID-19 as reason why

OREGON — It didn’t feel like fall, but that didn’t matter to those who turned out for the return of Autumn on Parade.

With temperatures in the mid 80s and high humidity the weather didn’t feel very fall-like, but that didn’t matter to the steady crowd who visited the 150-plus booths located on the lawn of the historic Ogle County Courthouse and surrounding streets on Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s amazing,” said Barb Huggins, of Fulton, who was attending Autumn on Parade for the first time on Sunday. “I love all the food vendors and I love the things that people make.”

Her friend, Patti Damhoff, responded by pointing to the north side of the Ogle County Courthouse lawn and saying, “You just wait. We’ve got to go all the way down over there.”

The theme, “Rockin’ 50 Years,” celebrated the event’s 50th anniversary a year late after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a hiatus in 2020.

The rain chain Huggins purchased was just one of the hundreds of items being sold by vendors. Other wares included ornamental produce, locally produced honey, jewelry, soaps, candles, antiques, seasonal items and homemade pies.

There were a lot more sellers this year, said Damhoff, of Fulton, who has been coming to Autumn on Parade for 30 years. However, in her opinion, there were fewer attendees.

“Usually, it’s so packed you can’t walk,” she said. “But I think people are scared of COVID. It makes a difference.”

Still, business was steady for Ms. Mint owner Kate Gross, of Franklin Grove, who was in her fifth year selling at Autumn on Parade.

“I’ve had a lot of excited customers that I was here,” said Gross, who sells handmade headbands and scrunchies. “That felt good … to have those people.”

One thing she said she loves about Autumn on Parade is that it’s a “genuine craft fair” where only handmade items are allowed. Shoppers also appreciate it, because it allows them to come and find treasures, Gross said. Most events now have direct sellers as well as handmade crafts, and it changes the vibe, she said.

Gross said, overall, the festival was good and seemed to be back to normal after the year off.

On the other hand, Judy Hodgin, a vendor out of Apple River, Illinois, felt things seemed different. Hodgin owns Baskets by Judy and has participated in Autumn on Parade intermittently for 15 years, depending on her schedule.

“In my own mind, it appears that people really want to be out and about,” she said while weaving a basket. “Everybody seems to be very kind and very considerate. … People buy something and if they need some change, they’ll say, ‘Oh, just forget the change’ and that’s never happened before.

“But it is different, because our whole lives are different,” Hodgin said.

Earleen Hinton

Earleen oversees production and content of 9 community weeklies and has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.