NORMAN — The sounds of table saws whined under the hot Oklahoma sun on a Thursday morning at Orr Family Farm. Hammers could be heard pounding away, too. Not to be forgotten were the beeping sounds of construction trucks and other heavy equipment.
It’s not a usual sound that is heard on the farm in the late summer, but it’s a sound that the family oriented attraction has heard plenty since being hit by the May 20 tornado that ripped through south Oklahoma City and Moore.
The events of May 20 might have been several months ago, but for Dr. Glenn Orr, a managing member of the Orr Family Farm, the emotions are still there.
Relying heavily on faith and the support of people not only in the surrounding communities but across the nation, the Orr Family Farm will reopen Sept. 28. A grand reopening celebration will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 11 a.m.
About three days after the tornado ripped through the farm, Orr was asked if he would rebuild the iconic attraction that opened in 2003.
“I said, ‘If it were just me, I’m 81 years old, I would have said no, I would not rebuild.’ But there’s so much more involved. The family, of course, but more importantly the patrons themselves. Their expressions of love and immediate outpouring of prayers, we had no choice, we had to rebuild,” Orr said.
And rebuild they did. The property has made several improvements and changes. The main barn is now an enlarged event barn featuring a catering area for weddings and corporate retreats.
The Sweet Shoppe is now called The Grill and will serve hamburgers and turkey legs. Mining for gems is now called Panning for Gems and will feature a reconfigured trough.
The Amazin’ Maze, a 5,000-square-foot maze that was a total loss, has been replaced by the Farm Fun Yard with a giant chess set, miniature tractors and tetherball.
“We’ve tried to come back a little bit bigger and a little bit better than we were before,” Orr said.
Another attraction of the farm was the 1974 vintage carousel. The carousel, also damaged by the storm, is being reconstructed in Kansas and will be placed back in its original position at the farm on Sunday.
Another change in operations at the Orr Family Farm will be the hours. From Oct. 1 to Nov. 2, hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday. The attraction also will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 9 and 16.
“We are not going to be open at Christmas. I know a lot of people are really going to be sad about that, but so many of our displays were destroyed that we’ve decided not to be open at Christmas except for Christmas with Santa. We will still have to do Christmas with Santa for the kids that love to come out here,” Orr said.
Activities for the fall season include train rides, interaction with barnyard animals, the pumpkin patch, hayrides and the tornado-themed giant corn maze.
“Some positives of the tornado, we were able to make some changes we would have liked to have made anyway,” said Shanain Kemp, event coordinator at the farm.
All the staff members from the Orr Family Farm were safe and unharmed after the tornado.
Orr said six members of the farm — seven including his beloved dog, Heidi — rode out the storm in the home adjacent to the property. The Orr home received no damage, something that the patriarch believes was due to the prayer he said prior to the storm.
“After seeing all the devastation out here, I asked Shanain, ‘What did I say?’ And she said, ‘You prayed that the tornado would pass over us.’ And that’s exactly what happened because not a shingle was disturbed on that house. My next thought was, why didn’t I pray for it to pass over the farm? I shouldn’t have been so specific in my prayer,” Orr said.
All animals from the Animal Barn at the Orr Family Farm were safe, as well as the ponies used for rides. The farm lost five “ponies in training.”
“We’re ready. We’re excited. I think it’s going to be healing. It’s going to show people that you can overcome because it is a miracle in itself that we are able to rebuild so fast. I think it’s going to be good for our community to open,” Kemp said.
For more information on Orr Family Farm, visit orrfamilyfarm.com.