Ellen Herbig prepares her daughter, Emilia, and son, Logan, for a photo under the “how tall this fall” sign on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, at opening day for the Lindberg Pumpkin Patch near Caledonia. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
    By Kevin Haas
    Rock River Current
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    CALEDONIA — Each fall at the Pumpkin Patch, Ellen Herbig and her sister would pose under a familiar sign and learn just how much growing up they had done in the past year.

    The sign, which reads “how tall this fall” and includes the year, is part of many family traditions at the 7-acre fall farm. On Thursday, Herbig started the tradition anew with her children, Logan, 2, and Emilia, who is an infant.

    “We have all of the pictures from every year when we were little, me and my sister,” Herbig said. “I plan on recreating stuff with these two.”

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    Thursday marked opening day for the season for the Lindberg Pumpkin Patch, which has been a fall tradition in the region since 1982. It’s been called the Lindberg Pumpkin Patch since 2015 when Ryan and Amber Lindberg bought the property from Mark and Jean Coon. Multiple members of the Lindberg family run the pumpkin patch.

    “We couldn’t wait for it to open,” said Ted Rottmann of Woodstock, who brought his 2-year-old great-grandson Arther to the patch. “He just loves roaming around. There are so many colorful signs and plaques and all sorts of things.”

    The Pumpkin Patch was originally owned and operated by Frank and Sue Fiorello, who ran it until about 2000. Frank Fiorello’s art was at the core of the Pumpkin Patch’s original look. Kathy Lindberg consulted with Fiorello to get his blessing and guidance before she painted new cutouts in the image of the original decorations, her father Don Lindberg said.

    Patching up the family farm

    Pieces of a grain elevator were salvaged after an EF-1 tornado wrecked grain bins on the Linberg family farm in Caledonia on March 31. The property is shown Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

    For the Lindberg family, the new season comes after picking up the pieces from an EF-1 tornado that struck the family farm a short distance east of the Pumpkin Patch.

    It was one of 22 tornadoes confirmed in northern Illinois and northwest Indiana on March 31, including a separate tornado that ripped a path from Davis Junction to Belvidere, damaging The Apollo Theatre, killing one person and injuring dozens of others.

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    Ryan Lindberg, who is also a volunteer firefighter with North Boone Fire District 3, was called to respond to The Apollo in Belvidere before returning to Caledonia and finding devastation at the family farm about 9 miles north.

    The tornado missed the Pumpkin Patch property, but it wiped out grain bins, wrecked silos, uprooted trees and damaged sheds and other buildings on the family farm to the east. It caused roughly $1 million in damages.

    The tornado ripped right between two homes on the property. Luckily, no one was hurt.

    Khloe Evans, 1, slides down an inflatable slide on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, at the Lindberg Pumpkin Patch near Caledonia. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

    Lindberg said they spent a few weeks picking up debris and removing the wreckage of the grain bins. They’re repairing the damaged pole barn and plan to construct another building in the spring.

    “It’s a hardship on the farm, absolutely,” he said. “But it is what it is; you just keep going.”

    He said some of the sheet metal was collected by Belvidere Youth Baseball and will be used for future dugouts.

    The grain bins won’t be replaced, at least for now, at the property where the family farms corn, wheat and beans.

    “It changes the way we do business, but it doesn’t put us out of business,” he said. “We’re all good. It’s just a hurdle to jump.”

    New season, new look

    Declan Jansen, 2, plays in the corn box on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, at the Lindberg Pumpking Patch near Caledonia. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

    During the offseason, the family also poured new concrete to create more space for the kid-friendly pumpkin train to roam.

    The corn maze has switched sides of the property as part of regular crop rotation, but the rest of the activities you remember are all there: inflatables slides and bouncy houses, the sandbox-style corn bin, the haunted shed, farm animals, hay bales, tractor rides, the fresh pumpkin donuts in the main lodge and, of course, picking out your own pumpkin.

    “It’s really nice and really family friendly,” said Ally Jansen of Rockford, who brought her 2-year-old son Declan and infant Liza to the patch. “I’ve always had a really positive experience here and the kids love it.”

    About | Lindberg Pumpkin Patch

    Where: 3178 Illinois Route 173, Caledonia

    Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from Sept. 14 through Oct. 31

    On the web: lindbergpumpkinpatch.com

    Pumpkins for sale are lined up under a sign on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, at the Lindberg Pumpkin Patch near Caledonia. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

    This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at khaas@rockrivercurrent.com or follow him on X at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas and Threads @thekevinhaas

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