The morning skies may have been gray on Saturday, but that only made it easier to spot bright, red strawberries in the field. Johnson’s Farm Produce, located off of Ridge Road in Hobart, has been hosting its Strawberry Festival for 20 years, and the Johnson family wasn’t about to let a little drizzle stop the fun.
The strawberry fields were full of pickers filling their buckets and taking plenty of breaks to eat strawberries straight from the earth. More than one employee said, “Rain makes for better picking, because it makes for better berries!”
Lyndsay Johnson, Festival Manager and Social Media Director at Johnson’s Farm Produce, said the team was ecstatic to be hosting their 20th Annual Strawberry Festival. While the “U-Pick” aspect of the festival has always been its highlight, in the last year, the farm has expanded the fest to include the Johnson’s Fun Farm.
“We saw that people wanted more to do and we decided, ‘Why not?’” Johnson said. “All in one year, the Fun Farm came about. Last year it was all brand new. We’ve had so many little kids and people come up to us and say, ‘I didn’t even know you had this all back here!’”
The Fun Farm included attractions such as an obstacle course, a mini go-kart track, an intricate goat pen, and an apple cannon shooting range. But Johnson’s favorite addition?
“The Jump Pillow,” Johnson said. “Kids LOVE the Jump Pillow.”
The Jump Pillow is exactly what it sounds like—a giant, pillow-shaped inflatable that people can jump on together. True to Johnson’s words, it was a big hit.
The Johnsons also introduced the Fall Festival last year. Both the Strawberry Festival and the Fall Festival are a product of the Johnson family’s superpowers. Lyndsay Johnson’s father, Rodney “the Strawberry Man” Johnson, oversees the farming and labor on Johnson's Farm Produce, while her aunt Jennifer runs the greenhouse and Jennifer’s husband, Steve, built all of the attractions, such as the goat pen and the obstacle course. Other family members were working different stations at the festival.
“It definitely has been a family effort,” Johnson said. “It’s fun to do it all with the family, though, you know? We’re pretty fun.”
The Strawberry Festival had a healthy mix of return visitors and first-timers. Kris, Matt, Stephanie, Bill, and Jennifer (and little Ava and Madison) from Portage were new to the farm. The family was enjoying everything the fest had to offer, but they unanimously agreed that the goats were their favorite.
“The rain didn’t stop us!” Jennifer said.
“Nope,” Kris agreed. “We call it rainshine!”
Best friends Kristan Rio and Hollie Chambers from the South Side of Chicago have been coming to the Strawberry Festival since they were children.
“We always look forward to it,” Chambers said.
Now Chambers lives in the Region while Rio still resides in Chicago, but the distance doesn’t stop them from getting together. Every year, Chambers and Rio meet at the Strawberry Festival, a perfect halfway mark. The two have even brought their daughters in on the tradition.
“We come here, we eat strawberries, we only think about strawberries, and we wear strawberry apparel,” Rio said. “We have a fun time with it!”
Stories like this fuel Johnson’s Farm Produce and its ambassadors.
“I love hearing people say, ‘This is so much fun! We’ve had the best time!’” Johnson said. “It’s rewarding to hear. This is why we do what we do. Bringing kids happiness and seeing it in everyone’s face… It makes all of the hard work so worth it.”
Johnson’s Farm Produce will continue to host the Strawberry Festival on June 10, 16, 17, 23, and 24. Don’t miss it, and be sure to check out johnsonsfarmproduce.com for all of the other fun festivals on the horizon.