The buzzing of tile saws and rapid shots from nail guns don't faze Heidi. The 11-year-old poodle mix diligently surveys the reconstruction of the Orr Family Farm from the golf cart piloted by her master, Glenn Orr.
The May 20 tornado caused about $1.5 million in damage to the field trip destination, 14400 S Western, which attracts thousands each year.
The farm is planning to reopen Saturday.
Orr, a retired veterinarian who founded the 105-acre farm 10 years ago, said he and five of his staff, including Heidi, took shelter in the house next to the farm. There, Orr led a prayer asking that the tornado pass over them.
“Well, that's exactly what happened,” Orr, 81, said. “Not a shingle was disturbed on that house. So then, my next thought was, why didn't I pray for it to pass over the farm? I shouldn't have been so specific.”
The employees, family and barn animals at the farm survived the tornado, but the damage was extensive.
“We've tried to come back a little bit bigger and a little bit better than we were before,” Orr said.
The vintage carousel built in 1974, a landmark of the farm, has been rebuilt by the grandson of the man who constructed the original.
Other improvements include a larger train station, a catering area for wedding receptions and a tornado-themed corn maze.
“Another one of the positives of the tornado was that we were able to reconfigure some things, and change some things we wanted to change,” said Shanain Kemp, event director of the farm.
A new Farm Fun Yard with tractor tricycles and games such as a giant chess set, has replaced the Amazin' Maze.
More than 2,500 volunteers helped clean up the farm after the tornado.
Orr said he did not originally plan to reconstruct the farm, but because of the support and encouragement from the community, “We had no choice. We had to rebuild.”
Orr said donors offered animals, but the farm had no facilities or fences to house them, and it had to send its existing animals to foster homes.
The farm's original animals returned to their new red barns last week.
The farm will not be open Christmas, because many of the holiday displays were destroyed, but the farm will have its traditional Breakfast with Santa on Dec. 7, 14 and 21.