Sarah Hill (copy)

Sarah Hill of Reedsburg paints the chapel at Durward's Glen before last year's fall festival. 

News Republic file

Vibrant fall colors could provide the backdrop for the Durward’s Glen fall festival this weekend.

The retreat and conference center located east of Baraboo is hosting its annual fall gathering Saturday. The event will feature a diverse array of artists and artisans selling their work, along with dozens of food vendors and wagon tours of the historic grounds.

Durward’s Glen Director Cathy Lins said fall colors at the site are beginning.

“For a while there, it was a little dry, but they’re turning and the leaves are getting a nice color to them,” she said. “It’s been fun to watch.”

Colleen Matula, a forest ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in Ashland, said the Baraboo area will move closer to peak fall colors as temperatures and daylight continue to decrease. Matula said unseasonably warm, dry weather in September slowed down the leaves' usual color-changing process.

“This is a very complex process,” she said. “We don’t need freezing nights, but we need cooler nights, which help the sugar process in the leaves to affect the different color pigments.”

Travel Wisconsin’s Fall Color Report says vegetation around Baraboo is currently at about 15 percent color and estimates it will peak sometime next week.

Lins said the fall festival’s wagon tours have been a popular offering in past years. The 40-acre property features scenic hiking trails, historic buildings, picnic areas, a pond, a rambling brook and a white oak tree that’s more than 350 years old.

“We have a tractor and wagon, and they’ll take guests through and explain the history of the place,” Lins said. “They’ll be able to see all the different places on the grounds, which people just love.”

Named after the family of painter Bernard Isaac Durward, who purchased the property in 1862, Durward’s Glen is on the National Register of Historic Places. Durward was commissioned in 1852 to paint the portrait of Milwaukee's first bishop, Archbishop Henni, and became a devout Catholic soon after.

His children offered the property to the religious Order of St. Camillus, which received it in 1932. The Order operated Durward's Glen as a novitiate for more than 40 years, and a parish was opened on the property. The site was later used as a retreat center and is now owned by a local nonprofit.

In addition to tours of the property, Lins said the fall festival will include more than 30 vendors selling a wide variety of arts and crafts. Keeping in step with the Durwards’ artistic tradition, Lins said the event is intended to showcase artwork, along with the area’s natural beauty.

“It’s about spending time with people and talking with folks,” she said. “Everybody gets a chance to do that kind of visiting in a place that’s really beautiful to enjoy.”

Follow Jake Prinsen on Twitter @prinsenjake 

Baraboo News Republic Reporter