WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Some Autumn Traditions Continue Despite the Pandemic

Oct 9, 2020

Many long-standing autumn events in the region have been canceled due to the pandemic.  For others, the show will go on -- but not without some changes.

Walnut Grove Farm

Walnut Grove Farm in Knoxville has participated in the Knox County Scenic Drive for more than three decades. But organizers of the drive canceled the event this year, leaving the barn’s owners wondering what they could do for the artisans and musicians they usually host.

“It’s sort of a creative experience in that we have to rethink how we act and what we do,” said Jan King, who owns Walnut Grove Farm with Rich Wood. 

They decided to hold an online fair featuring artists from the region. The sale continues through the end of the month. You can view the art work here.

Wood said they’ve had to learn new ways to communicate with the artists while trying to set up the online art fair.

“Normally we have artisan meetings prior to the event, maybe one gathering or two before the event in our home. But we have gotten used to engaging and talking with each other very personally through these Zoom calls,” Wood said.

King added, “We have found that we actually chat more often. So I think those things have all been good.” But she added that doing things online is not always easy out among the corn and soybean fields.

“Rural America does not have the capabilities for online presence. It’s much more difficult to do the things that, say, my kids in the suburbs in Chicago have no issue with at all,” King said.

The art sale started in September. Wood and King said sales have been a bit slower than they hoped, possibly because customers are not getting a chance to interact with the artists.

“One of the attractions was to be able to go up to the artisan as they’re at their display table and engage in a conversation with them about their work. And that then helped to generate sales (in the past),” Wood said.

Tiny Barn Concerts

Walnut Grove Farm will also host Tiny Barn Concerts on October 10 and 24. Attendance will be limited to just 40 people and reservations are required. You can make reservations here.

Seating will be set up in pods to ensure social distancing. 

The schedule:

  • Saturday, October 10 at 6:00 p.m. -- David Berchtold and Paul Hamilton
  • Saturday, October 24 at 4:00 p.m. -- Carol & Gabe Trulson with “Blue Room Unplugged”

Mindy Pheiffer walks a portion of the maze while her four-legged friend Beau sniffs out clues.
Credit Rich Egger

The Horn Field Campus Corn Maze

Another fall tradition in the region is the corn maze at Western Illinois University’s Horn Field Campus just outside Macomb.

Director Mindy Pheiffer said the field campus has done a corn maze almost every year for more than two decades.

She said this year’s preparations began in the spring, which is typical.  But she said some other aspects of planning were different this year.

“We kind of joked about how many stalks of corn equals six feet. We’re going to have to put some signage up about that. So there’s a lot of minutiae that goes into it,” she said.

The cost to go through the maze is $5 per person. Pheiffer said because of the pandemic, reservations are required. You can make a reservation here.  She said that’s something new, but they can have no more than 50 people at the maze at any one time.

In addition, masks and social distancing will be required, and the maze will be open only on Saturdays and Sundays from Noon to 5:00 p.m. through the end of the month.

Pheiffer said one thing has not changed this year: there is a theme for the maze.  She said Zoe Roberts came up with the design last spring. Roberts was a high school student at the time.

“This year’s theme is actually a math theme. There are numbers in there and a pi sign. And it was her idea. I have to laugh. I can’t think of anything more perfect than a math theme in my corn maze at Western Illinois University,” Pheiffer said with a laugh.

She said she will not reveal the details about the design.  Pheiffer said people need to come out and work their way through the maze in the 11-acre corn field at Horn Field Campus.

This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.