Fall Festival

01 October 2008
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Published in Places
McHenry County farms provide a connection to the fall harvest and provide fun for the whole family.

Stade's Farm and Market Celebrates the Shades of Autumn. At 24, Vern Stade started his dairy farm with just 50 cows. Through the years, Stade addes corn, soybeans and vegetables to his farm. By 2001, Stade had grown his business to 250 cows and had two large farm stands.

"I enjoy working with the public and selling them the products I have grown on my farm," said Stade. "When I was young, I only wanted to produce commercially and make money to retire by the time my children were grown. Now, I want to stay here till I’m 100." 

Today, Stade’s Farm and Market (3709 Miller Rd. in McHenry, 815-675-6396, www.stadesfarmandmarket.com) sells home-grown produce, u-pick strawberries, hay and straw, and hosts the Shades of Autumn fall festival. Hockenberry Honey is produced by honeybees on Stade’s farm—the same bees that pollinate the crops. Stade’s also hosts school tours and private parties, sells homemade donuts and pies, and holds an outdoor Contemporary Christian worship service every Sunday.

Shades of Autumn (September 20 through October 31) is a fall event the whole family can enjoy. Stade’s famous pumpkin cannon is just one of the festival’s attractions. Guests will also enjoy a petting zoo, hayrides to the pumpkin patch, pumpkin picking, corn cannons, a corn maze, corn box (like a sandbox, but with corn), barrel train rides, hay bale mountain, cattle trailer maze, inflatables, pedal cars, an obstacle course, kids’ games, food court and fall decorations.

"My favorite thing about the fall is the colors, seeing all the smiles on people’s faces and knowing they’re having a good time," said Gayle Hubert, Stade’s market manager. "The best thing about Shades of Autumn is going on a hayride to pick a pumpkin."

Fall Festivities at Von Bergen’s Country Market

The Von Bergens pride themselves on providing farm fresh, family produced goods for their customers. During the fall,Von Bergen’s Country Market (9805 Rt. 173 in Hebron, 815-648-2332, www.vonbergens.com) takes on a new look and includes various family activities for fall fun.

A 2-acre corn maze, children’s corn maze, pedal tractor pull, farm animal zoo, u-pick pumpkins, tractor-pulled wagon rides, face painting, gourds, Indian corn, tractor playground and an authentic teepee are just a handful of the entertainment options at Von Bergen’s this fall.

The family friendly atmosphere encapsulates the mission the family formed in 1977. The Von Bergens started selling pumpkins and Indian corn out of a wagon at the urging of their son Mike, who was 9 at the time. In 1988, they built the market building to house the growing number of products they were selling and eventually added air conditioning to provide more comfort for their employees and customers.

The market not only sells produce, there are also plenty of locally produced products to try. Amish jams and other jarred products, Harvard honey, Spirit Valley syrup, Cugino’s of Lake in the Hills cooking products and seasonally decorated treats are good additions to fresh fruits and vegetables. Vegetables are also available in bulk and are perfect for freezing, canning or pickling.

The Von Bergens invite school groups for tours. The kids are taken out into the field where they can pick their own pumpkins, gourds and finger corn. The kids can also visit the animals that call the farm home. Residents include turkeys, ducks, goats, lambs, potbellied pigs and chickens. Kids will also get a lesson from an Indian guide in the teepee. They’ll learn about how the native people lived years ago.

"This is not a circus or carnival," said Bobette Von Bergen. "It’s a real farm. People will be entertained by the peaceful setting, not the attractions."

Red Barn Farm Market Presents their Pumpkin Festival

Since 1969, the Skerke family has provided farm fresh produce to the Woodstock community. Red Barn Farm Market (3500 S. Rt. 47 in Woodstock, 815-338-4343, www.redbarn.us) began as a way to raise funds for the Skerke children’s college education. John, his wife, Cathy, and sister, Susan Klehm, have grown the business into a year-round operation.

In spring, gardeners flock for plants, supplies and garden décor, summer brings an array of fruits and vegetables, the Pumpkin Festival is in the fall and the shop is transformed into a fireplace-warmed Christmas House for winter. Fresh-cut trees, wreaths, garland and boughs will get you in the holiday spirit.

From April through December, Red Barn has a unique selection of kitchen linens, pottery, lamps, rugs and gourmet foods, including jams, pickles, salsas, dip mixes and snacks.

The Pumpkin Festival includes a corn maze, a spooky house for youngsters, farm animals, Mom’s Kitchen and whimsical pumpkin figures. School tours allow kids to pick pumpkins themselves. On Sundays in October, live music, food and pumpkin pie will keep the crowds coming. Squash, gourds, pumpkins, potatoes and popcorn are all available for eating or decorating.

"We have lots of unusual gourds and squash," said Cathy. "People come in and say, ‘I haven’t seen anything like these before.’ If you want to decorate with weird stuff, this is the place to come."

Decorations aside, the Pumpkin Festival is a chance to enjoy the season and spend time with your loved ones.