Jim Oberweis stood on the new, 2,000-square-foot plaza outside of The Barn at Blackberry Farm and surveyed the new amenities.

The Illinois 25th District Senator, who sponsored the $50,000 grant awarded to the Fox Valley Park District through the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities (DCEO), echoed the sentiments of many.

“I think it’s a great addition to a great place for events, parties, weddings and gatherings,” Oberweis said. “I just wish we could all enjoy it right now.”

Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has the world in limbo, but operations teams continue to address projects, while adhering to the guidelines set forth by local, state and federal officials.

Such is the case at the FVPD, where the purpose of the DCEO grant was to provide for a landscaped plaza extension off the existing Barn, said Jeff Palmquist, the FVPD’s director of planning, research and grants.

The Barn is a flexible space, which is beautifully appointed, featuring rustic touches and country charm amidst Blackberry Farm’s historic backdrop – the ideal spot for wedding receptions and other celebrations.

“Our goal was to enhance the structure’s ability to provide for group activity, events and public gatherings,” Palmquist said, “as well as opportunities for any school groups or other visitors to gather and learn about the history of the area through the Blackberry Farm interpretation.”

Under the leadership of John Kramer, the FVPD’s director of operations, the plaza – which features 2,000 square feet of concrete with barnwood detailing, a large fireplace and hearth bench area and a separate, small fire ring with circular benches – was completed in eight weeks.

The FVPD coordinates with local legislators both for support and to seek grant funding for capital projects “that will benefit the constituencies and residents of the Fox Valley Park District,” Palmquist said.

Adjacent to the plaza lie native gardens with trees “to help define the space and frame up the view toward Lake Gregory,” Palmquist said.

The added plaza will allow guests of Blackberry and The Barn to mingle in the fresh air during celebrations and events of any kind.

“It’s important to acknowledge the collaboration between Planning, Recreation and all facets of the District in Operations,” Kramer said.  “There was a need and we came up with a design that fit well within the Senator’s budget. We implemented it and it resulted in great success.”

For more information on Blackberry Farm and/or The Barn, visit blackberryfarm.info/