In 1915, Edgar Lee Masters published his Spoon River Anthology, which would eventually introduce the region to a worldwide audience. Masters, the observer, poet, author, and attorney, grew up in Spoon River Country during the 1890s, experiencing the beauty of its hills and valleys and the ironies of its small-town folks.
The Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive traverses the landscape that Masters knew, winding amid both subtle scenery and the occasional spectacular views. In October, 1968, Fulton County geared up to share its “fall face” with the rest of the world, launching the Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive Fall Festival to celebrate its history, people, land, and the river at its heart. The spirit of that original event lives on, and the Fall Festival marked its 50th year in 2017. Much expanded, the annual event—held on the first two full weekends in October—attracts visitors from all over the world for fall scenery, arts, crafts, music, food, produce, historic sites, museums, old-time farming, collectibles, antiques, and to explore Masters’ Anthology in Lewistown’s Oak Hill Cemetery . The Scenic Drive route remains a year-round, marked scenic drive running approximately 140 miles through 16 communities: Astoria, Vermont, Ipava, Bernadotte, Duncan Mills, Lewistown, Waterford/Dickson Mounds Museum, Cuba, Smithfield, Canton, Farmington, Fairview, Ellisville, Avon, Havana, and London Mills.
Several additional events coincide with the Scenic Drive Fall Festival each year. Also that first weekend, the Spoon River Rascals Theater Troupe performs a play at the historic Ellisville Opera House. During both weekends of the Scenic Drive Fall Festival, Dickson Mounds Museum hosts the Rendezvous at Spoon River. This gathering features a primitive voyageur encampment with woodcarving, cooking, fiber art, and hatchet throwing. Lewistown’s Rasmussen Blacksmith Shop and Museum and Narrow Gauge Depot Museum are also open during both Fall Festival weekends. (Call 309-547-4300 for more information about these attractions.)
Beyond the events, traveling the Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive while in Fulton County sports its shimmering fall colors can make for a memorable trip. The countryside is rich in trees that burst with color during the fall months. Spring finds blooming redbud trees dotting the roadsides against a background of emerging greens. By summer, greens blanket Spoon River Country, sunny fields of tall corn giving way to the cool shade of streamside stands of trees. In winter, stark bare branches silhouetted in the sunrise or sunset over snow covered ground can also be breathtaking. You can enjoy the Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive anytime.
Brochures can be picked up at Dickson Mounds Museum, Lewistown City Hall, Lewistown Visitors Center , and other locations around the county. For more information call the Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive Association at 309-647-8980, or visit www.spoonriverdrive.org.