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Give scenic drive a test drive

The Sauk Valley has the natural beauty and interesting attractions necessary for a successful autumn scenic drive event. Regional cooperation could make it happen.

Published: Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Fulton County wrapped up its Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive this past Sunday. Held the first two weekends of October, the event has been a tourism staple since 1968.

Motorists flock to the western Illinois county to see the colorful leaves, visit quaint villages, and take in culture and history.

Frankly, what’s Fulton County got that the Sauk Valley doesn’t have?

We’ve previously proposed the concept of a Sauk Valley Scenic Drive. While no local groups have taken the bait, we still think the idea could work.

Many historic and recreational destinations across Whiteside, Lee, Ogle and Carroll counties are featured in their own annual events, and that’s great.

But why not get more bang out of them by linking them together for one or two big weekends in the autumn?

The Whiteside County Barn Tour, held every July, proves that people around here enjoy driving from one interesting destination to the next.

Some regional attractions are already open on the weekends, while others would have to be opened and staffed specifically for the scenic drive.

What could be included?

The Blackhawk Waterways tourism website lists dozens of attractions in the four counties. From Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home to John Deere’s blacksmith shop, from museums, statues, and state parks to art galleries, historic courthouses and a Dutch windmill, from the Rock River to the Hennepin Canal, there is so much for people to see and do.

Where else can you saunter across a river on a walkway built atop a 100-year-old dam?

See a 48-foot-tall, strikingly noble statue that honors Native Americans?

Climb the stairs to a second-floor apartment where a future president was born?

Visit a park dedicated exclusively to railroad enthusiasts?

Food stands and crafters could be placed at strategic locations along the scenic drive route to add to the festivities.

If key regional attractions could be linked together via maps or apps for a weekend or two, locals and out-of-towners alike could have fun and gain greater appreciation for what our region has to offer.

In the spirit of regional cooperation, tourism officials and community boosters should get together and consider what a Sauk Valley Scenic Drive could do for them.

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