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updated: 9/28/2012 8:29 AM

Morton Arboretum gears up for its annual Fall Color Festival

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  • The Morton Arboretum's Fall Color Festival opens Sunday, Sept. 30, and runs through October featuring more than 4,000 types of trees, shrubs and plants.

      The Morton Arboretum's Fall Color Festival opens Sunday, Sept. 30, and runs through October featuring more than 4,000 types of trees, shrubs and plants.
    Courtesy of Morton Arboretum

  • The Morton Arboretum's Fall Color Festival features all sorts of games and activities for kids.

      The Morton Arboretum's Fall Color Festival features all sorts of games and activities for kids.
    Daily Herald file photo

  • More than 2,000 people are expected to participate in the arboretum's 5K run and walk on Sunday, Sept. 30.

      More than 2,000 people are expected to participate in the arboretum's 5K run and walk on Sunday, Sept. 30.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

The folks at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle last year dubbed their annual tribute to all things fall AutumnFest.

Kind of predictable, huh?

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But organizers of this year's sprawling, long-running event have resurrected the old moniker, Fall Color Festival, to celebrate the vibrant shades of the arboretum's star attraction this time of year: more than 4,000 different types of trees, shrubs and other plants.

"It's an opportunity to take advantage of our beautiful season," said Jenelle Hardtke, the arboretum's special events manager. "People really celebrate the fall foliage here pretty much better than all over the Chicago area."

And organizers have beefed up some crowd favorites, including an expanded scarecrow trail and a glass pumpkin display and sale.

"We're constantly trying to take some of the events that a lot of our visitors have grown to love and actually kind of expect and just tried to build on them," Hardtke said.

The festival opens Sunday, Sept. 30, and runs until Saturday, Nov. 3, at 4100 Route 53 in Lisle. The weekends of the festival are expected to draw between 75,000 and 80,000 visitors.

Some activities require fees in addition to admission. For details, call (630) 968-0074 or visit mortonarb.org.

Here's a look at some of what's going on:

Scarecrow Trail: It's something feathered friends have come to dread. More than 50 scarecrows will pop up along Meadow Lake beginning Sept. 30. Even worse news for crows: This year's trail features more nature-themed scarecrows created by local Girl Scout troops and more days devoted to the avian adversary.

5K Run and Walk: More than 2,000 people are expected for the unofficial start to the Fall Color Festival on Sept. 30 as they maneuver a scenic course certified by USA Track and Field.

"We do have a couple hills that people might consider a little bit challenging," Hardtke said.

Events begin 8 a.m. and include a post-race pancake breakfast, Kids Dash and free admission to the arboretum. Race-day registration is $35 per adult.

Glass Pumpkin Patch: The exhibit returns after its inaugural year to showcase more than 3,000 handblown glass pumpkins and other pieces, plus free glassblowing demonstrations on the West Lawn from Wednesday to Friday, Oct. 17 to 19. Visitors can purchase their favorite designs at the Glass Pumpkin Patch Market from Friday to Sunday, Oct. 19 to 21. Glassblowing workshops have already sold out.

Lead artist Shannon Morgan also returns for the event, featuring glass pumpkins in unique colors and styles.

"It's absolutely back by popular demand," Hardtke said.

Gourd Works: The Illinois Gourd Society produces gourd art that's for sale 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 13 and 14, at the Visitor Center.

Fall Bulb Sale: Get your green thumb ready and browse dozens of spring bulbs, with varieties ranging from daffodils and tulips to hyacinths and irises, in the Sycamore Room in the Visitor Center from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7.

Fall Color Festival Fare: Just like chili and football, hot chocolate and the holidays, taffy apples go hand-in-hand with fall. Whip up your own in Arbor Court and sample brats, burgers and kettle corn. The confections are free with admission and available 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends in October and Columbus Day. Complimentary wine tasting from Wente Family Estates runs noon to 4 p.m.

Trick or Trees: Fall-inspired crafts and games fill the Children's Garden 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends in October. Halloween costumes are encouraged.

Bird Walks: Discover bird behavior and natural history with an expert-guided walk starting at 8 a.m. Saturdays, Oct. 6, 20 and Nov. 3. Registration is available online, by phone at (630) 719-2468 or in-person at the Visitor Center. The event requires an $8 fee for members and $10 fee for nonmembers in addition to arboretum admission.

Theatre-Hikes: October's Theatre-Hikes spotlights "Werewolf's Curse; Or Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow" in an event that shepherds audiences to scenes with unique backdrops throughout the arboretum. Performances begin at 3 p.m. at the Thornhill Shelter weekends in October and Columbus Day. Tickets are $12 for member adults and $19 for nonmember adults. Tickets for children ages 2 to 17 are $8 for members and $13 for nonmembers. They are available online, by phone at (630) 725-2066 or in person at the Visitor Center. On the first Sunday of the month, a low-impact hike is designed for wheelchairs, walkers and strollers.

Fall Family Hikes: Take a trek from the Visitor Center to the Tree House Tales Exhibit on Saturdays, Oct. 6, 13, 20, 27 and Nov. 3. There is a $5 fee for members and a $6 fee for nonmembers, plus arboretum admission.

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