Things to Do in Boone County

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There’s always something to do in Boone County, whether it’s taking a long walk through the Conservation District or visiting one of our museums. Here’s just a small sample of fun things to see and do.

Poplar Grove Airport and Wings & Wheels Museum

Pilots from all over the world stop at a small airport in Boone County for the chance to step back in time and enjoy grassroots aviation. Visitors come from nearly every state in the country, as well as Europe, South America, Asia and Australia. In 2016 there were even visitors from China and Russia.

The Poplar Grove Airport is a privately owned, public use airport that was started in 1972 by Dick Thomas, a retired dairy farmer. When Thomas died in 1994, his son and daughter-in-law, Steve and Tina, bought the airport, which was home to 40 airplanes, a flight school and a maintenance shop.

This led to the development of Bel-Air Estates Fly-in community in 1997. Four years later, the lots were sold out. There are 100 lots with airport taxiway access, 40 without access and 39 townhomes. There are 400 airplanes based at the airport, which has a thriving flight school and a nationally recognized maintenance facility. In 2015, it was named the top Privately Owned Airport in Illinois.

In 1997, an interest in vintage aviation led to the creation of the Poplar Grove Aviation Education Association and the Poplar Grove Vintage Wings & Wheels Museum. The education association is a nonprofit organization developed to preserve early transportation artifacts and promote education in the transportation fields. It is funded through memberships, sponsorships and donations.

2017 marks the museum’s 20th year, and several events are planned to commemorate the anniversary.

The pre-World War II museum focuses on the aviation and automobile industries as they grew together in the early 20th century. Exhibits feature vintage airplanes and automobiles. The floor layout changes up to three times a year to accommodate seasonal exhibits and to keep the layout fresh.

Popular items in the museum collection include a 1931 American Eaglet airplane donated by Gene Morris of Texas and a 1930 Ford Model A Mail truck donated by Gordie and Nada Geddes of Poplar Grove. In 2013, Jack and Peggy Wolf of Belvidere donated the funds to acquire a bronze statue of early aviation pioneer Elrey B. Jeppesen. New in 2017 is a 1934 Ford dump truck and a 1941 Doodlebug – a Model A Ford converted to a tractor.

The museum is open Thursday through Sunday, April through September, as well as by appointment. Field trips for students, summer camps, lectures and tours are available throughout the season. A variety of fundraising events are held, including a murder mystery dinner in October, a holiday wine tasting in November and Santa at the Museum in December. In August, the airport hosts a fly-in/drive-in pancake breakfast sponsored by the Poplar Grove Lions Club, which is the Lions’ biggest fundraiser every year.

Boone County Historical Museum

The Boone County Historical Museum offers something for everyone.

The mission of the museum is to stimulate interest in Boone County history through education, research and preservation of artifacts and archival materials. Research material includes books, newspapers, videos, pictures and maps. Bound notebooks containing newspaper clippings as far back as 1860 give guests a glimpse into the past.

In the transportation room, guests will see a 1966 Plymouth Fury, the first car rolled off the Belvidere Chrysler Plant assembly line. Check out the two-story, 1840 log cabin home in the Agriculture Room. And in the Grand Gallery you’ll find displays honoring some of Belvidere’s past heroes, including 1969 Miss America Judi Ford.

The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s also available for private events.

McEachran Homestead Winery

As the only winery in Boone County, McEachran Homestead offers a unique wine tasting experience for visitors and local residents alike.

The McEachran Homestead was settled in 1857 by John McEachran, the great-great-grandfather of Herb Greenlee, the current owner. McEachran immigrated to northern Illinois from Scotland and settled in what was known then as the Argyle Scottish Settlement. The McEachran Homestead is officially recognized by the State of Illinois as a Sesquicentennial Farm.

Since the winery opened, the vineyard has doubled to 1,000 vines, which includes 19 different varieties of grapes, over two acres of property. The original farm of 160 acres has been expanded to 285 acres with corn and soybeans as the main crops. Eleven acres are dedicated to 19 varieties of grapes, raspberries and fruit trees, all of which are meticulously tended, then handcrafted into cold-climate grape and fruit wines. The winery is open year-round.

Tours are available for guests to learn about the different types of wine varieties and how viticulture and production aspects influence the flavor of McEachran Homestead’s wines. Tours also offer insight into the pruning, tending and nurturing of the vineyards and surrounding gardens. Groups can sample a variety of cold-climate grape and seasonal fruit wines made on-site.

The Keen Age Center

The Boone County Council on Aging provides a variety of programs to older adults and their caregivers that help enrich and improve their quality of life. Programs include public transportation, medical car escort, nutrition programs, outreach, in-home care, computer lab, information and assistance, education, recreation and volunteer opportunities. The council’s headquarters is the Keen Age Center, 2141 Henry Luckow Ln., which serves as headquarters for the professional staff and volunteers for all services provided by the organization, as well as a recreational and meeting site for older adults and caregivers.

Edward’s Apple Orchard

For the past 50 years, thousands of guests from across northern Illinois flock to Edward’s Apple Orchard to enjoy a taste of autumn. Visitors can pick apples, pumpkins and raspberries; visit the Apple Barn to shop for a number of fall treats; or enjoy lunch at the Cider Mill. And don’t forget to take home a dozen of tasty cider donuts. The Apple Orchard is open from late August through Thanksgiving.

Lindberg Pumpkin Patch

Under new ownership in 2015, this pumpkin patch has a little bit of everything. Families can enjoy old fashioned wagon rides, a petting zoo, face painting and hands-on classes like taffy making and pumpkin carving. The patch also hosts one of the largest pumpkins in the world standing at over 10 feet tall. The cafe and bakery serve classic autumn treats like caramel apples and pumpkin pies. There are also plenty of special events throughout the fall season.