There would be no Deere & Company without Grand Detour.
To help more people learn all that the John Deere Historic Site in Grand Detour, Ill. (outside Dixon) has to offer, Deere is bringing back its free Fall Fest Saturday, Oct. 14, and Sunday, Oct. 15. It’s at 8334 South Clinton St., 72 miles northeast of Moline.
“We just wanted to attract more people out to the Historic Site, trying to do a better job of informing the Quad Cities about it,” Brandon Jens, Deere’s branded properties manager, said Wednesday of launching the Fall Fest at first. He oversees John Deere Pavilion, the John Deere Historic Site and Deere Tractor & Engine Museum in Waterloo.
Moline-based Deere started the Fall Fest in 2018, and it was last held in 2019, as a one-day event. The free two-day event now (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) will include:
- Face painting
- Horse-drawn carriage rides
- Antique tractors
- Food vendors
- Blacksmith demonstrations
- Old-fashioned games
- Farm animal petting zoo
- Pumpkin decorating
John Deere, the Vermont-born blacksmith, moved to Illinois in 1836 to escape bankruptcy and build a successful steel plow business. He invented a self-scouring plow and after moving to Moline in 1848 (to take advantage water power for his factory on the Mississippi River), his business was booming by 1849, producing 2,000 plows a year.
The John Deere Historic Site (which includes a replica of the original blacksmith shop) has hosted blacksmith events and art festivals, Jens said this week. The site (like John Deere Pavilion in downtown Moline) is always free, from April to October, and in 2021, reopened in late June.
“Mainly coming out of the pandemic, we wanted to slowly do events,” Jens said. “We were just getting our feet under us, getting it staffed. In 2022, trying to learn what should we start doing? What should we not do anymore?”
The September art festival returned each of the past three years, and this past June, there was a circa-1858 vintage baseball game on the property, he said. “It was really fun, it was a 90-degree day.”
This weekend will include a father-and-son blacksmith demonstration, which is fun, Jens said.
The Fall Fest will have the original John Deere home open, which he built in 1836, and gives you an intimate glimpse of pioneer life. You’ll see how the Deere family raised eight children, not to mention live-in apprentices, in their six-room home.
You can see the rooms as the Deere family would have known them, furnished with period household items that show how pioneers cooked, cleaned, bathed, and spent their few leisure hours. Right next door is the Gift Shop where you can find items forged in the blacksmith shop as mementos of your visit. There’s also a selection of clothing, hats, and other John Deere Historic Site merchandise.
Antique tractors on display at Fall Fest will range from the 1920s to 1940s, Jens said.
The JDHS is off I-88, outside of Dixon, more off the beaten path, compared to the Deere attractions in Moline and Waterloo.
The Historic Site draws many fewer visitors than the two – the Pavilion has attracted over 110,000 visitors this year, which is up 15% from last year. The Waterloo museum is up 26% this year, around 30,000 people, and the Historic Site increased to 6,500 visitors this year, compared to 4,400 in 2022.
“A lot of that has to do with its location,” Jens said. “People have to go there. It’s an hour and 15 minutes outside the Quad Cities.”
“Hopefully this weekend, we’ll have a big crowd,” he said.
There’s a big Lighting on the Commons holiday event at John Deere Pavilion in November, but the JDHS closes after October so doesn’t do holidays. In December, the Tractor & Engine Museum has an event, and Santa will be at the Pavilion on Dec. 14, 2023.
For each of the three attractions, more people come from outside Illinois and Iowa to visit, than within the states, Jens said.
For more information on Deere attractions, click HERE.