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Two fall events offer wisp of AOP festival

Oregon residents missing their annual Autumn on Parade festival fix got a bit of relief last weekend with three smaller events.

"I am missing Autumn on Parade," said Gary Myers as he waited in his car for 10 Oregon Lions Club pork chop dinners. "I always have to have my pork chop sandwich at Autumn on Parade."

The service club is one of the non profit groups who make up the popular festival's food court on the Ogle County Courthouse Square the first full weekend in October.

This year's AOP would have marked the festival's 50th anniversary, but the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions to try and stop the spread of the virus, prompted the all-volunteer committee to cancel the 2020 event.

The two-day festival attracts thousands to Oregon offering a parade, car and tractor show, kids events, and an Olde English Faire at Stronghold castle among other events.

Myers and his passenger took advantage of the Lions Club's drive-thru option in the west end of the Oregon SuperValu parking lot to make sure they at least got their pork chop sandwich.

"These are all for my family," Myers said.

Teresa Bunger of Ashton also stopped by for two dinners. "It's kinda sorta like AOP," she said.

"We've been busy," said Lion Ron Armeson as he and other Lions grilled their specialty. "It's been steady."

Nine miles to the east of town, Hidden Timber Gardens hosted an open house and outdoor market complete with pumpkins and several booths while following social distancing rules and monitoring attendance.

Stillman Valley High School's National Honor Society was one of the booths helping spread the fall cheer with its "Build-A-Scarecrow" booth.

"We've been trying to figure out how to do a fundraiser this year and a lot of our usual options have been taken away," said Michelle Rogers, the club's adviser. "So as long we were going to be outside we came up with this."

The "this" involved SVHS students helping visitors create their own scarecrow by offering clothes, wooden stakes, straw and a pumpkin for a head.

Gracie Chapman, a high school senior, put the finishing touches on "Pete" a scarecrow for George and Kristin Bigelow of Kings who were giving Pete to their grandsons, Tate and Archer of Chana.

"You kind of have to hold his head like a baby," Chapman advised George as she handed Pete over.

"He's going to a good home," laughed Kristin as George balanced the big guy and carried him to their vehicle.

Stillman students Braden Rogers, Jacob Rhodes, and Ethen Engelkens, teamed up to build their scarecrow and dubbed him "No Neck" when his pumpkin head slid a little too far into his shoulders.

Maddy McCammond and her mom, Tabitha, walked back to their car with "Edgar Allen Crow" and were happy to be outside despite a light afternoon rain.

"We're missing everything this year and its kind of sad," said Tabitha. "At least we have a little event like this to go to today."

On a path through the "hidden timber" Sheila Warnken and her sister Teresa Hill were helping steady their two-year-old grandson and grandnephew Brantley Roberts of Mt. Morris as he walked past plants, flowers and more booths.

"We're definitely missing Autumn on Parade," said Warnken.

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