Stillman Valley in its early days was very community-oriented and had many activities for all ages. Among them were: an opera house in the early 1900’s, the Grange, S.V. Woman’s Club (founded by Julia Hull around 1915), quilting bees, school plays, church programs, dances, community band, pool hall, a nationally renowned recreation park (founded in 1921), village Christmas Tree (1935) and even a bowling alley (1946).
The fall festival most certainly is a circulation of these events from our past, but it seems there were several significant occasions that played a key role in forming today’s festival.
The Chatauqua organization, founded in 1876 at Chatauqua Lake was a Christian-based group that provided towns and communities with various educational, spiritual programs and entertainment for all age groups. Families would drop everything to come and attend Chatauqua Days.
The Stillman Valley Citizens and merchants sponsored Chatauqua Days in the late summer of 1920. Unfortunately, due to the high cost of operation, it appears that this was the only occurrence for the Stillman Valley community.
The need for a recreation area to accommodate area youths was realized around 1920 and through tremendous effort and extraordinary participation by local citizens and merchants, the town built a fabulous playground. On Sept. 23, 1921, Stillman Valley had the ground opening of the park. A program of speakers, including the state senator, shows by school children, and free sandwiches, frankfurters and coffee attracted over 500 people to the ceremony. The park was so well equipped, that in 1926 it received a recognition award for being the best-equipped park in the U.S.A. for a town under 10,000. The park was so popular it attracted families from many surrounding communities. Stillman Valley’s park apparently incorporated and-or spawned several smaller festivities.
The high school had an annual “weenie roast” sometimes in the fall. All Hallows Fete, held on Oct. 31, was a gala affair; there was a parade of masked individuals, a huge bonfire, one-act plays, music, stunts and other entertainment. The park closing ceremony was also held at this time to store the equipment for the winter.
The S.V. Grange and the S.V. High School Vocational Ag. Dept. would take farm products to Rockford and exhibit them at the 7th St. Fall Festival in the 1930’s.
Stillman Valley’s first Fall Festival was held Oct. 8, 1937, and was sponsored by the S.V. Grange, S.V. Vocational Ag. Dept, and the S.V. businessmen.