Tuesday, May 28, 2024

A homegrown business: Great Pumpkin Patch honored for tourism impact

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ARTHUR — When Mac Condill’s family opened The Great Pumpkin Patch 35 years ago, they didn’t have any grand plans for becoming an agritourist destination.

“It started as a roadside stand and opened it up to people,” said Condill, who was 12 at the time. “And that seemed to be popular, so we did it again. And then it grew, and then people wanted to eat something, and then we started feeding people. And then they wanted to spend more time, so we added picnic tables. And then, all of the sudden, it’s entertainment. We didn’t go out, setting to to do this, like a lot of farms do now. We just kind of evolved into it, which I take really as a badge of honor.”

The Great Pumpkin Patch, located at 1749A E County Road 1900 N in Arthur, was among the 2024 Tourism Impact Award winners honored by Experience Champaign-Urbana at its annual Toast to Tourism banquet Wednesday night.

“We created the Tourism Impact Awards to recognize the brand ambassadors who go above and beyond,” said President and CEO Jayne DeLuce.

Ebertfest, the State Farm Center, Urbana Boulders and Uniting Pride of Champaign County were also honored.

Condill, a fifth-generation farmer who owns and operates The Great Pumpkin Patch with his wife, Ginny, said it was “humbling and exciting” to receive the award.

He estimated that the business draws tens of thousands of people each fall season and over a million in its 35-year run.

“This Tourism Impact Award is presented to connecting agriculture to the majority of the population with a dirt-to-dessert through year-round hard work and creativity,” DeLuce said. “And I can attest, this family and all the people of that team work very hard year-round to provide these experiences.”

While the Great Pumpkin Patch’s 2024 season will run from Sept. 18 to Oct. 31, Condill likewise said their work is a “year-round operation.”

“There’s always something going on at the farm,” he said. “Even when we’re not picking pumpkins, they have to be grown and cared for and seeds saved, and all the stuff. But the other thing that continues to kind of be a surprise to people is that we have a full, made-from-scratch bakery that’s open 12 months out of the year.”

According to a history from the business, The 200 Acres farm was homesteaded by Frank McDonald in 1859 and has been kept in the McDonald-Condill family ever since. The family started the pumpkin patch business in 1989, and Mac and Ginny Condill opened the Homestead Bakery in 2006.

Of the family’s 200 acres, 63 are dedicated to growing more than 300 varieties of pumpkins, squash and gourds. The site also includes displays, gardens, a historic one-room schoolhouse, animals, mazes, a museum and a gift shop.

When asked what he thinks their main attraction is, Mac Condill replied that he’d like to think it’s “the diversity of the pumpkin family.”

He added that they work hard to provide a place where people can “connect to the land.”

“It doesn’t take long to step outside of the family or outside of Arthur and realize how important our farm has been or is to people,” he said. “And then when you travel anywhere — even when I travel overseas, it’s amazing how many people connect to our place.”

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