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posted: 10/3/2013 12:15 PM

Horseshoe tossing, barn raising part of Cider Festival Oct. 6

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  • The Bickler House in McHenry was one of the popular stops for early automobile travelers in McHenry County.

      The Bickler House in McHenry was one of the popular stops for early automobile travelers in McHenry County.
    Courtesy of the McHenry County Historical Society

  • The Miller family of Union take a break during a motor camping trip in 1914. Travelers would bring their own camping gear as there weren't many hotels located along roadways.

      The Miller family of Union take a break during a motor camping trip in 1914. Travelers would bring their own camping gear as there weren't many hotels located along roadways.
    Courtesy of McHenry County Historical Society Muse

 

Submitted by McHenry County Historical Society

The 36th annual Cider Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6 at the McHenry County Historical Society Museum, 6422 Main St. in Union.

In addition to free access to the museum, guests are invited to participate in, or simply view, the inaugural Cider Fest Horseshoe Tournament starting at 10:30 a.m. The blind-draw, single-elimination tournament is open to 16 two-person teams. Trophies will be awarded for first, second and third. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. and the entry fee is $5 a person.

Visitors also may listen to the sounds of Charlie B and Friends between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and watch a barn raising beginning at 12:30 p.m. Throughout the day, there will be harvest demonstrations, including broom making and old-fashioned cider making. Apple-baked goods and kettle corn will be among the food items on sale. Rare books, antique clothing and hard-to-find items also will on sale during the society's biannual white elephant sale.

Silent auction aficionados can bid on unique books being sold from the collection. They include an 1872 plat book and an 1885 county history book.

In addition to the museum, the Gannon family 1843 log cabin, the 1895 West Harmony one-room school and the newly updated mobile museum, The James, will be open free all day.

For information, visit www.gothistory.org or call (815) 923-2267.

View the latest exhibit on The James mobile museum, "You Auto Be in McHenry County," which recounts the transportation revolution and auto camp tourism which flourished between 1905 and 1930. Featured objects include early auto parts, county and state maps, 1920s clothing and camping gear and postcard photos of auto clubs and hill-climb races.

At the turn of the century, there were precious few places along the open road where travelers could rent a room after a day's drive. Hotels tended instead to be located near railroad depots.

Unwilling to travel all the way into town or leave their automobiles in stables, an increasing number motorists began to bring gear along and camp along the roadside. It didn't take landowners and civic leaders long to cash in on the craze. They began establishing campsites, restaurants and stores.

At the turn of the century, out of 2.1 million miles of roads in the U.S., only 151,644 were improved with oil, shell, or gravel. This meant there were almost 2 million miles of plain dirt roads. It was not until 1906 that automobiles began appearing in significant numbers in McHenry County. Autos were selling for prices ranging from $1,000 to $2,500. The first automobiles were owned by professionals and businessmen. By 1910, there were newer, cheaper, and used autos for sale. Within 10 years there would be 1,706 automobiles registered in McHenry County. There were several automobile clubs in McHenry County. These clubs would motor to Lake Geneva and Delavan, Wis., as well as other scenic spots during the summer months. By 1921, an estimated 9 million Americans planned to go motor camping during the summer months. The first automobile tourists traveled with all the comforts of home. They frequently traveled with gasoline stoves, Dutch ovens, wash tubs, big tents, folding beds, collapsible camp furniture, food, clothing and sporting gear. In McHenry County, auto camps were established to lure the motoring public to places like Richmond, Crystal Lake, Spring Grove, Woodstock, McHenry and Marengo to spend money in these towns. The auto camps had great appeal to the traveling public. They offered clean privies, showers and rain shelters.

In 2002, the McHenry County Historical Society adapted a 1983 Thomas-Built school bus into a mobile local history museum. "The James," named after McHenry businessman Jim Tonyan who funded the bus purchase, has been used to bring exhibits of local interest to the public at libraries, community events and schools.

Most of the 15 or so scheduled events are held on either Saturdays or Sundays during the warmer months. For information or to book The James, call (815) 923-2267. Tax-deductible donations to offset fuel, maintenance and volunteer time are appreciated.