Walnut Grove Farm — 1455 Knox Station Rd, Knoxville
The third stop on the Scenic Drive map, Walnut Grove, is a picturesque farm complete with a red barn, petting zoo and small pumpkin patch. Customers can pet and feed all kinds of animals from piglets and baby sheep to cows and donkeys. There are even kittens, guinea pigs and more small furry creatures for sale, as well as $3 carriage rides (complete with two corgis as your guides).
The entire farm has a homey, rustic feel to it but the inside of the barn has been transformed into what feels like a glamorous market, with sparkling lights all over the place and live music in the back.
Inside the barn, artists from all over Knoxville are set up to sell their crafts. Jewelry, paintings, ceramics, knitwear and more can be found (great for holiday gifts) and customers are encouraged to vote for which craftsman they think should be awarded “Artist of the Year.”
Also inside the barn is a food station selling cider, apple pie and more.
Walnut Grove is anything if not scenic, with the fall leaves changing and dropping from the many trees that surround the farm. Take a ride on the horse-drawn carriage and customers are able to see the cornfield and surrounding area.
Orange Chapel — 951 County Rd 27, Gilson
The Orange Chapel is one of the last stops on the scenic drive located in Gilson, Ill., just 20 minutes from campus. After a morning full of Midwestern activities such as petting farm animals and drinking hot apple cider, heading to a church is a fitting end to the drive. According to Orange Chapel historian Susan Bates the history of the church can be traced all the way back to 1830.
“When [the church] was first organized, the people met in schools, their homes and campsites. The location of the first church wasn’t exactly here, but it’s about a mile and half away from where it is now,” Bates said.
The Methodist church was first envisioned by a settler named Joseph Wallace who came to Gilson with his family. Within six years of the Wallace family’s residence, a schoolhouse and a religious service house were established in the town.
According to Bates, worship at Orange Chapel has significantly faltered in recent years. She estimates that a typical service is lucky to get about 15 to 20 churchgoers. Furthermore, the church lost a significant amount of its elderly population. Despite this, Bates says the Orange Chapel church community pitches in to help keep the church afloat.
“We do what we can. We ask people in the community to help out: friends, family. It’s held strong. It’s a beautiful church,” Bates said.
Knoxville Main Street
It’s definitely worth stopping in Knoxville’s historic district, where several vendors are set up in the town square, along Main Street and around the large gazebo. Donuts, apple cider, roasted almonds and more are for sale, in addition to handmade crafts, large sculptures and clothing items.
The First United Presbyterian Church is also open, with several barbecue items for sale inside. The real star of the show is the quilt show inside. Numerous quilts of all colors and patterns are spread over the pews of the church, overlooked by stained glass windows. There is also an additional room of solely red, white and blue quilts which are given to veterans. According to the members of Quilts of Valor, any veteran who comes to the church during the scenic drive will be gifted one of these blankets. Otherwise, they send them overseas. They are currently raffling off one of their quilts, with all proceeds helping to curb shipping costs. Tickets are $1 each.
Although not necessarily a part of the scenic drive, there are historic buildings in downtown Knoxville that are worth exploring. These include an old log cabin, the City Hall and the Knox County Museum, which features many historical artifacts from the Civil War era — and even a dress worn at Knox’s Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858.
Knox County Fairgrounds — 1392 Henderson Rd, Knoxville
The Knox County Fairgrounds in Knoxville were muddy from the weekend rain but still bustling with flea market sellers and shoppers on an early Sunday afternoon. For the most part, the booths have various trinkets that the dealers perhaps dug up from their attics or made themselves. One seller notes that some of her sewed pillow covers of various sports teams have been selling quickly, and that she will have to make more before the next weekend’s group of shoppers. Another couple both make and sell woodcut items on sight. Other tables have items that are all $1, or have old items that are selling for cheap, like a briefcase full of classic rock disk cassettes for $4, including the briefcase.
Other unique sellers include a trailer full of puppies and kittens for sale — hopefully from humane sources. Clothing vendors are largely set apart to one building, as are other novelty items, from quilts to American flags made from bullets. Food trucks sit just outside, offering deals on curly fries and German sausages to hungry shoppers. There is a crisp autumn atmosphere throughout the complex, although that doesn’t stop some vendors from selling old Christmas decorations as well. The Fairgrounds are a great first stop for those looking to support the community with their purchases, and is only a mile from many more food and item vendors in historic downtown Knoxville.
The Scenic Drive will be hosted by Knox County once again from Oct 13 to 14