Apr 7, 2007
Pumpkin-Eating Dinosaur Draws Crowds

To attract fall customers, farm markets have come up with many creative uses for their pumpkins – such as stacking them, carving them or launching them in a catapult – but there’s probably only one farm that obliterates them in the metal maw of a mechanical dinosaur.

The 20-foot tall, electronic Pumpkin Eating Dinosaur is a popular attraction at Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch in Hampshire, Ill. The converted cherry picker can chomp and chew up pumpkins, belch and blow smoke out of its nose, said Sue Murdock, the manager.

“It’s quite a show,” she said. “Kids really like it.”

The dinosaur is about three years old. It was created by Lloyd Goebbert, who owns the Goebbert farm operation with his brother, Lee. Lloyd comes up with a lot of great ideas, Murdock said.

The dinosaur is one of many agritainment attractions at the pumpkin patch. There’s also the 3-D Haunted Mine, the Corn Stalk Maze, Farmers Wife Café, Market and Craft Barn, pig races, pony and wagon rides, a petting zoo, school tours, corporate events and u-pick pumpkins, according to www.pumpkinfarms.com.

The pumpkin patch is one branch of the Goebbert farm operation, which includes Goebbert’s Farm & Garden Center in South Barrington, Ill. The South Barrington farm also hosts a plethora of agritainment activities. Fall is the prime season.

The Goebbert family has been in the farm-market business since 1947, when George Goebbert started a roadside vegetable stand in Arlington Heights. In 1972, Jim and Esther Goebbert bought the 40-acre farm in South Barrington. Their three children, Luanna, Lee and Lloyd, started raising and selling pumpkins by the roadside in 1978, according to the Web site.

The three kids used pumpkins to write “pumpkins for sale” on the side of the road, a busy four-lane highway. Pumpkin sales became so brisk the family had to shut down its other farm stand, Murdock said.

Pumpkin sales have remained brisk, but are only part of the Goebbert’s experience.

“It started with pumpkins, but now it’s more about providing an atmosphere of family fun,” she said. “We entertain a lot of people.”

Last year, the farm hosted 15,000 school kids. That’s a big number, Murdock said.

The South Barrington farm has about 40 acres. Its pumpkins are pre-picked and sold in the yard. The Hampshire farm has 200 acres, about 65 of them in pumpkins. Its pumpkins are sold u-pick. Goebbert’s grows 11 varieties of pumpkins, from the big 120-pounders to the tiny ones. In South Barrington, the pumpkins are marked based on size and quality. They average about 59 cents a pound. In the u-pick patch in Hampshire, the cost is determined based on weight, Murdock said.

The farms also grow peppers, tomatoes, sweet corn, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, watermelons and muskmelons, she said.

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