Morton Arboretum's fall celebration fills two months

  • Set against the backdrop of vibrant reds, yellows and oranges, the Morton Arboretum's AutumnFest features classes, children's activities, a 5K and enough events to fill two months.

    Set against the backdrop of vibrant reds, yellows and oranges, the Morton Arboretum's AutumnFest features classes, children's activities, a 5K and enough events to fill two months. Courtesy of the Morton Arboretum

  • Morton Arboretum's AutumnFest offers a little something for all the senses. Children (and adults) will be able to top their own taffy apples.

    Morton Arboretum's AutumnFest offers a little something for all the senses. Children (and adults) will be able to top their own taffy apples. Daily Herald File Photo

  • Serious runners will enjoy the challenging terrain of the Morton Arboretum's Fall Color 5K, while families on the route can take in the scenery.

    Serious runners will enjoy the challenging terrain of the Morton Arboretum's Fall Color 5K, while families on the route can take in the scenery. Daily Herald File Photo

  • The half-mile walk around the Morton Arboretum's Meadow Lake becomes the Scarecrow Trail, where visitors can see scarecrows built and decorated by area Scouts.

    The half-mile walk around the Morton Arboretum's Meadow Lake becomes the Scarecrow Trail, where visitors can see scarecrows built and decorated by area Scouts. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 9/13/2011 8:12 AM

September was getting an inferiority complex at the Morton Arboretum.

Its neighboring month, October, usually gets all the glory -- what, with fall events scheduled every weekend against the stunning backdrop of reds, yellows and oranges of the changing leaves.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

This year, both months get to relish in the fun of an expanded fall festival -- AutumnFest -- that includes many old favorites, including Theatre-Hikes and the Fall Colors 5K run and walk, along with new events such as a honey bee weekend and a glass pumpkin display and sale.

"September is a glorious month as well, " said Marilyn Baysek, the arboretum's special events manager. "We have so many fun, new things planned for AutumnFest."

The Morton Arboretum which features more than 4,000 types of trees, shrubs and other plants, is situated on 1,700 acres near I-88 and Route 53.

Some AutumnFest activities require advance registration and have an additional cost beyond admission. For a full schedule of event times and prices, as well as registration, visit mortonarb.org.

Bee keeping: Fresh from Honey Bee Weekend, which opened AutumnFest, visitors can learn to create and maintain their own backyard beehives. It's a recent trend in gardening, and courses are offered from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Oct. 4.

The arboretum recently expanded its number of hives from 20 to 50, said the arboretum's beekeeper, Bronwyn Weaver, who owns Heritage Prairie Farms. Each hive averages 60,000 honey bees and can produce anywhere from 50 to 150 pounds of honey -- all of which is sold in the arboretum store.

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Beyond producing honey, the bees serve another very important purpose.

"They're helping ensure that all of the collections are being properly pollinated," Weaver said. "Everything that blooms at the arboretum needs to be pollinated."

Honey bees nationwide are facing a colony collapse, where an entire hive will die off without explanation. Adding, expanding and maintaining healthy colonies is crucial to the environment, Weaver said.

But home beekeeping -- isn't that dangerous? What about stings?

"It's kind of like a carpenter getting splinters -- it kind of comes with the territory," Weaver said. "People have hives of bees that they don't even know about all around them in nature."

Theatre-Hikes every weekend: Theater takes a hike at the arboretum with Theatre-Hikes, a unique format that takes its audience to several different settings throughout the grounds.

At 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays throughout September, people can catch "Around the World in 80 Days," the story of an adventurous explorer who vows to circle the world by rail or steam in 80 days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Weekends in October feature "Night of the Living Dead" at 3 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday hikes are typically two-mile walks, while Sundays are considered low-impact hikes and stay near the path to better accommodate wheelchairs and strollers.

Tickets for adults are $12 for members or $19 for others. Tickets for children ages 2 to 17 are $8 for members, $13 for others. Tickets bought in advance include the price of admission to the arboretum.

Family Twilight Adventures: Experience the arboretum after dark with a guided twilight hike or tram ride through the woods and roast marshmallows as a family. Twilight Adventures are offered Sept. 16 and 24, as well as Oct. 8, 14 and 22.

Fall garden shop: Shop spring bulbs, fall perennials and other colorful plants from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 17 to 25. Arboretum experts selected more than 150 types of spring specialty bulbs and plants to add texture and color to home landscaping.

Bird walks: Check out the fall birds with an expert-guided walk from 8 to 10:30 a.m. Sept. 17, Oct. 1, Oct. 15 and Nov. 5.

Scarecrow Trail: Beginning daily in October, take the Scarecrow Trail -- a half-mile loop around Meadow Lake -- to admire nature-themed scarecrows created by area Girl Scout troops. Stop in the Visitor Center to cast a ballot for your favorite.

AutumnFest fare: Each weekend in October and Columbus Day, visitors can indulge in the tastes of fall by purchasing AutumnFest fare such as build-your-own taffy apples, with nuts and candy toppings, kettle corn, brats, hamburgers, grilled corn, wine by the glass and bottle, beer, spiced cider, hot chocolate and more.

5K run and walk: More than 2,100 runners are expected to hit the trails at this year's eighth annual Fall Color 5K Run and Walk at 8 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 2.

"We have a lot of rolling terrain out here," Baysek said. "The terrain can be challenging. It's a very family-friendly morning, but people who are serious runners like it, too."

The day includes a kids' dash and a pancake breakfast following the race, plus free admission to arboretum. Registration can take place online, through the mail or in person at the Visitor Center.

Gourd works: Watch Illinois Gourd Society artists make beautiful gourd creations weekends throughout October and Columbus Day.

"They do the craziest thing with gourds," Baysek said. "They dry them, carve them, chip them. There's all sorts of methodology."

From gourds that resemble Christmas decorations or jack-o-lanterns, to musical instruments or vases, all sorts of gourd art will be for sale.

Or learn about how to make your own gourds at one of many workshops throughout the month. Register online.

"Our education program is cranking all year round, and these gourd work classes are another element to that," Baysek said.

Glass pumpkins: A new event this year is the glass pumpkin patch featuring more than 2,000 unique glass pumpkins of all shapes, colors and sizes.

"People will tend to not only just want them out for Halloween and Thanksgiving," Baysek said. "They're a piece of art that would enhance anybody's decor all year long."

The pumpkins are a creation by Shannon Morgan, a professional glass blower some may know as Sir Shannon, who does hand-blown glass demonstrations at a booth at the Renaissance Faire.

Morgan partnered with Chicago Hot Glass to produce the pumpkins in a range of colors and styles -- some with short and stubby handles, others with long vines.

"It's very playful. It's an uncommon use of a 3,000-year-old medium," Morgan said. "I do make them without seeds so you don't have to clean them out every year."

Pumpkins will range from small to large and from $20 to hundreds of dollars.

A pre-sale viewing will take place at 10 a.m. Oct. 12 through 1 p.m. Oct. 14. The sale opens at 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, and runs throughout the weekend.

Glass blowing workshops already have sold out. However, glass blowing demonstrations will take place near the Visitor Center at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Oct. 12, 13 and 14.