By Emily Klein, Reporter
The persistent rain cleared up just for Willoughby Farm to celebrate its annual Spring Farm Day on Saturday, April 4. The event offered many activities for kids to do and kicked off a great start to summer on the farm.
Spring Farm Day, an annual event on the first Saturday of May, is geared towards families to bring people out to the farm and show visitors what the farm has to offer. On Saturday, the weather allowed a good crowd for the event and kids with their parents milled around doing activities like making recycled bags out of t-shirts, painting rocks, participating in a scavenger hunt, or hitching a ride on the Barnyard Express.
The annual Spring Farm Day usually doesn’t bring as many visitors as Fall Farm Day because of the rain, but Willoughby Farm saw around a good 800 to 1,500 people on Saturday. For Fall Farm Day, the farm sees 1,800 to 2,200 people. Willoughby Farms is working with the city to find more parking for farm day attendees, especially since the field adjacent to the parking lot was too muddy to park on from the rain. Most cars had to park along the subdivision streets in the neighborhood around Willoughby Farm. A long trek to the farm didn’t stop farm-goers in the slightest, and many kids couldn’t wait to get inside to check out what was going on at the farm.
Out of all the activities, the Barnyard Express is one of the most popular. Retired farmhands built the Barnyard Express, a little train made out of recycled trash cans pulled by a mower that takes the passengers around the farm. Farm Superintendent Carol Frerker said the Barnyard Express is brought out only on Spring Farm Day and Fall Farm Day, and the kids love it as much as the farmhands love operating it.
“These are retired professional people that just get a kick out of driving the mower leading this barnyard express,” Frerker said. “I get a kick out of it. The only time we bring it out is spring farm day and fall farm day and it’s a hit!”
Home Depot provided a couple different wood crafts for Spring Farm Day. Kids could choose to build a yo-yo, helicopter, toolbox, or picture frame. Painting a rock was an activity provided by Quality Christ Centered Education, whether it be a as pet or for the garden. Plastic Free Tri-Cities, an organization passionate about trying to ban plastic bags in Collinsville, instructed farm attendees how to make a grocery bag out of an old t-shirt. Kids from the club as well as the Willoughby Farm Urban Ecology Club lead the tutorials on making the bags. Amongst the crafts, attendees could stop by to see the baby goats and a baby calf.
“It’s a great time for babies,” Frerker said. “We have a baby calf, baby chicks, baby rabbits, and we have baby goats.”
Kids and parents also had the opportunity to find out more about how to have a better green thumb with information provided by master gardeners from the University of Illinois. Additionally, farmhouse tours of the Willoughby farmhouse were available. Volunteers recently restored the farmhouse back to what it looked like in the 1940s. Frerker said she was glad people were enjoying the day and participating in all Willoughby Farm had to offer.
“I like to see people coming out and having a good time, bringing that smile on their face and connecting to one another,” she said.
The farm, with more than three miles of hiking trails along with historic structures, vast gardens and live animals, has plenty to offer throughout the summer for kids and adults alike. Summer activities like the ecology club, archery classes, volunteer opportunities and more can be found on the Willoughby Farm website.
“Gives you a chance to wear your cowboy boots,” Frerker said.
For more information on Willoughby Farms visit www.willoughbyfarm.org. See this week’s print edition for more photos.