ARTHUR, Ill. (WCIA) — A long-standing tradition all started when the ol’ McDonald’s had a farm. In 1859, McDonald immigrants settled the land now known as the Great Pumpkin Patch.
Their descendants kept it going for several generations, but in 1988, the crop changed and the McDonald-Condills planted a new idea.
In 1977, Bruce Condill and his wife, Mary-Beth, wanted to make homemade jack-o-lanterns for their two sons. So, they planted pumpkins. They had some extra, so they decided to sell to their neighbors.
“We were doing agritourism before there was even a name for it.”
It became a small, annual tradition. Then, it was 1988; a drought year for corn and soybeans. A question of “what now” was quickly answered with pumpkins and opening doors to the public.
“First weekend we were open, there were people everywhere. They were parked everywhere on the farm. They were in the buildings, they were in our house. People just walking around and my wife and I were sitting out there on the bench and she looked at me and said, ‘I think we created a monster,’ and we still have that monster 30-years later.”
As the monstrous tradition continued growing, word traveled across state lines.
“I heard about it through my good friend, Carol, who I met through the tour business several years ago and, on our way on a trip I said, ‘I’m coming to see you!'”
“And I said, ‘You’ve got to go to the Great Pumpkin Patch with us.'”
Even now, visitors will say it’s something you’ve got to see. Everybody’s familiar with the big, bright orange pumpkins this time of year, but it’s not every day you see one like this.
There are more than 300 pumpkin, squash and gourd varieties grown on the farm, from 30-different countries. That’s what Condill says sets it apart from all the other patches.
But, Collier says, what’s really unique is their pumpkin passion.
“They want to share their love for the family of gourds they have here.”
The patch is open until October 31. It’s not just about pumpkins. There are also unique animals, a sunflower maze and bathrooms refurbished from grain bins.