Take a walk on the Trail of History this weekend

Want to get out and enjoy those fall colors? There's no better place this weekend than the McHenry County Conservation District's "Trail of History" on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 17-18, at Glacial Park, located off Route 31 north of McHenry.

Now in its 21st year, this annual "living history" festival celebrates frontier life in the Northwest Territory, which, from 1670 to 1850, stretched from Illinois east to Ohio and northwest to Minnesota.

Each year, hundreds of visitors hike the park's one-mile trail, through colorful woods and rolling hills, to a low-lying valley where historical re-enactors are bringing history to life. The two-day event includes over than 150 encampments, military units, artisans and craftsmen, who demonstrate how people lived in the earliest years of our county's history.

Known for its period authenticity, Trail of History gives visitors a chance to literally step back in time, witnessing a Voyageur landing, watching an 18th century military drill and mounted cavalry on parade, or getting a close-up look at a working team of oxen. There's a frontier school, a real log cabin, and an inhabited "Métis Village" where voyageurs and native Potawotomis work and live side-by-side.

This massive undertaking wouldn't be possible without the help of local volunteers, who work for months to perfect their costumes and presentations, says Lora Petrak, community relations specialist for the McHenry County Conservation District. Experienced re-enactors also come from throughout the country to share their expertise.

Returning this year is a perennial favorite - Dr. Balthazar's Traveling Medicine Show - a hilarious 19th century snake oil sales pitch by Mike Follin of Chesterville, Ohio. Also featured each day are period music and dance performers, the Amazing Budabi Brothers juggling team, and historical dramatist Pam Welcome, who will portray Harriet Tubman.

Visitors can watch swordplay duals and blacksmithing demonstrations, try their hand at dipping candles, or test their skill at the two-man saw. Youngsters can also enjoy the children's trading blanket, playing old-fashioned games, dressing up in pioneer clothes or making corn husk dolls.

Each day at noon, at the Indentured Servants Sale, visitors of all ages can get themselves "sold" into working for period craftsmen and merchants. But if work is not the reason you came, you can still shop the "trade tents" for historic souvenirs, or dine on "pioneer" fare served up daily by the fair's food vendors.

Trail of History runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, but entry gates close at 3 p.m. to allow visitors time to reach and enjoy the encampment site. Admission is $7 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-12 or seniors age 60 and up. Children age 5 and younger are free; pets are not allowed.

A small area of special-needs parking is available for those who are physically unable to walk the one-mile trail to the encampment.

Glacial Park is located on Harts Road off Route 31, in Ringwood, seven miles north of McHenry. For information, call (815) 338-6223 or visit

Also coming soon

Middle school musical: Heineman Middle School students will perform "Beauty and the Beast, Jr." on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 23-24, at the Huntley High School Performing Arts Center. Show times are 7:30 p.m. both evenings, and a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Tickets for are $5 each, available at the door.

It's no easy job making 97 costumes for 53 cast members, says Kay Mills, the school's guidance counselor and designated seamstress, who credits a team of teachers, parents, and student volunteers with helping to create that magical look. The family-friendly show also features colorful sets, lively dance numbers and a happily-ever-after story that all ages will enjoy.

Tricks, treats: This year, trick-or-treat hours in Huntley will run from 4-7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31. Huntley police remind children and their parents to watch for traffic, wear reflective tape on their clothing, and don't wear masks or hoods that could block their vision. Youngsters should not trick-or-treat alone, and never enter a stranger's house or accept a ride from someone they don't know. With a little care and common sense, everyone can have a lot of fun.

• It will be trick-or-treat all day long at the Huntley Area Public Library, 11000 Ruth Road. Stop by in costume anytime from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31, and get a sweet or scary treat at each of the service desks.

Children make corn husk dolls at a previous year's Trail of History Courtesy McHenry County Conservation District

<p class="factboxheadblack">If you go</p> <p class="News"><b>What:</b> 21st annual Trail of History, featuring a look at McHenry County as it might have been between 1670 and 1850 and a chance to sample frontier-style activities, crafts and food</p> <p class="News"><b>When:</b> 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 17 and 18; no admittance after 3 p.m.</p> <p class="News"><b>Where:</b> Glacial Park, Ringwood; seven miles north of McHenry on Route 31</p> <p class="News"><b>Admission:</b> $7 adults, $3 for children 3-12 and seniors 60 and older. Children younger than 5 admitted free.</p> <p class="News"><b>Info:</b> (815) 338-6223 or <a href="" target="new"></a></p> <div class="infoBox"> <h1>More Coverage</h1> <div class="infoBoxContent"> <div class="infoArea"> <h2>Stories</h2> <ul class="links"> <li><a href="/story/?id=328934">LITH woman doffs business suit, dons frontier garb for Trail of History <span class="date">[10/16/09]</span></a></li> </ul> </div> </div> </div>

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.