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September/October 2008
Adventures in Autumn: Pumpkins & Corn Mazes
As the leaves change hue and the days grow shorter, amp up family time with an exciting trip to the corn mazes and pumpkin patches at local farms.

by Daya Chaney Webb + photos by Jamie Turner

• • •

We arrive at the farm midday, as the sun stands high behind marshmallow clouds. An Indian summer weekend of unusual warmth, the wind whips together hot tones of oak leaves next to the roadside entrance. My two boys, 4-year-old Sam, and Thomas, 2, dash past me at the front gate — marked by mammoth-sized paintings of smiling pumpkins. Almost intuitively, they veer left to the long slides lined with hay bales to separate each of the slick downhill runs. After sliding what seemed like several thousand times, the kids hit the ground running toward the corn maze.

Like many local families as the harvest moon draws near, we are enjoying a trip to Summers Farm in Frederick — one of several autumn activity hotspots in our area. In addition to providing farmers with supplemental income and boosting the regional agritourism industry, pumpkin patches and corn mazes provide hours of unbridled fun for children of all ages. “The unstructured outdoor activity centers are perfect for kids to enjoy the outdoors this time of year,” says Amanda Hodges of Smithsburg, the mother of two preschoolers.

Lost in Corn
With the rich, black earth beneath our feet and walls of corn stalks at each arm’s length, we enter the corn maze at Summers. The air carries the faint scent of hot cider and the sound of laughter over the rhythm of a local bluegrass band. The drying green plants tower over my head — and to the children, that is the height of excitement. I try to keep up with Sam as Thomas cautiously grips my hand. The runner tries to get lost in the maze and is met by freestanding paintings of his favorite cartoon characters.

Ranging in size from just a few acres to the sprawling 17-acre, Civil War-themed maze at Lawyer’s Winterbrook Farms in Thurmont, local corn mazes offer hours of fun for all ages. At Lawyer’s Moonlight Maze, the MazePlay game system uses a punch card and checkpoints to track progress through the maze and challenges kids to reach the maze’s most hard-to-reach parts. Nighttime mazes like Lawyer’s and the Flashlight Hayride and Corn Maze at Ridgefield Farm & Orchard in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., offer thrills for the not-so-faint-of-heart. But even daytime navigators can rest assured that getting totally lost is a rarity. Jeri Huffer, co-owner of Jumbo’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze in Middletown, can only recall one instance of a guest getting lost since the seven-acre Crazy Corn Maze opened more than a decade ago. “Usually, if someone gets too lost, they will just bust through the corn,” Jeri says. Visitors to the eight-acre maze at Crumland Farms in Frederick are encouraged to enter the labyrinth with flags, which can be seen by workers perched in watchtowers, says co-owner Judy Crum.

Want to have a blast while benefiting a great cause? Check out the “Corn Maze for a Cure” at Brookfield Pumpkins in Thurmont, where 50 percent of the proceeds from the farm’s newly expanded six-acre maze benefit the Hurwitz Breast Cancer Fund to support breast cancer diagnoses and treatment for residents of Frederick County. 

Through Fields of Orange
After the excitement of the maze, a relaxing hayride is just what the kids (and Mom!) need. At Summers Farm, we hightail it to board a trailer especially designed to haul pumpkin pickers. As much as they anticipate trolling the patch for the perfect pumpkin, youngsters are sure to love the trip there on hayrides offered at Summers and many other local farms, including Reynolds Farm in Waynesboro, Pa., Jumbo’s Pumpkin Patch, Ridgefield Farm & Orchard and Brookfield Pumpkins. The children giggle with glee as the green John Deere revs up and is off to the patch on the scenic tour. Although the hayride is full of children, a calm silence surprises me as everyone enjoys the views. Mountainsides are splattered with reds and golds as if painted by an artist’s hand. The driver stops to let the passengers embark on their search for a pumpkin.

Lesa Shively of Harpers Ferry says that her two boys, Will, 3, and Wyatt, 2, have very specific requirements when is comes to choosing the right pumpkin. “Will looks for a long skinny one while Wyatt searches for a fat one.” There certainly is no shortage of choices — with pumpkins in every shape and size dotting the rolling landscape in a speckled blanket of orange.

Petting Zoos & Face Paint
Lower and lower, the light stretches shadows of children on the ground like Daddy Long-Legs in motion. And we end our stay at Summers with a pig race. A real crowd pleaser, the piglets run in circles, and all the children laugh hysterically when the black spotted one wins. Such activities are common complements to the pumpkin picking and maze travel at our local farms.

A Pumpkin Sling Shot is a main attraction at Mayne’s Tree Farm in Buckeystown, which also features a moon bounce, straw jumping and face-painting. You might have a hard time pulling kids to the pumpkin patch from the petting zoo at Brookfield Pumpkins and the pony rides at Jumbo’s, while the corn cannon, giant slide and trikes, pedal carts and MooChoo Train at Crumland Farms make that venue an autumn destination-must.

This fall, treat your family to a day frolicking in our area’s beautiful countryside, where kids and parents of any age can revel in the splendors of the season — through the tastes, textures, sounds, fragrances and sights of this beautifully bountiful season. Pumpkins are decorations, desserts and souvenirs from a family day spent together in celebration of the most colorful time of year.

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Autumn Artistry
Tips for Carving the Perfect Pumpkin

Use these guidelines to help turn your field find into a piece of fall art:

• To delay decay, soak the pumpkin for 10 minutes in a bucket of water with two tablespoons of bleach.
• Always prepare by setting up with the proper supplies: a sharp knife; a small, serrated knife; a metal spoon; and a tack.
• Level the pumpkin’s bottom with the serrated knife.
• After opening the top, scoop out the interior with the metal spoon. (Save the seeds for eating!)
• Make sure to use a sawing motion when cutting the pumpkin. This is a safer method than straight cutting and more effective when cutting small details.
• If you wish to create an elaborate design, draw it first on paper. Tape the design to the pumpkin and punch holes along the design with a tack. This method avoids visible lines after the pumpkin has been carved.
• For preservation and prevention of wrinkling around the cut areas, rub petroleum jelly along the carvings.

Source: Foodnetwork.com

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Fruity Facts
Some of these pumpkin tidbits might surprise you.

• Taken from the Greek word pepon, pumpkins were originally used as a piecrust ingredient instead of the filling.
• Did you know that pumpkins are classified as fruit and comprised of 90 percent water?
• Although pumpkins originated in Central America, the Connecticut field variety is the most commonly used across the United States, with 80 percent of the country’s supply available only in October.
• In colonial days, Native Americans used to cut pumpkins in strips to dry for mat making, while settlers used the soft interior as a remedy for freckles.
• The record for the largest pumpkin ever grown is 1,140 pounds.

Source: The Farm Bureau for Kids

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Pumpkin Patches and Corn Mazes

Brookfield Pumpkins
8302 Ramsburg Road, Thurmont
301-898-3527
www.brookfieldpumpkins.com

Crumland Farms
7612 Willow Road, Frederick
301-845-8099
www.crumland.com

Jumbo’s Pumpkin Patch
6521 Holter Road, Middletown
301-371-6874
www.jumbos.org

Mayne’s Tree Farm
3420 Buckeystown Pike,
Buckeystown
301-662-4320
www.frederick.com/index

The Pumpkin Patch
15505 Broadfording Road,
Clear Spring
301-582-3722

Reynolds Farm
11129 Gehr Road, Waynesboro
717-762-2986
www.reynoldspumpkinfarm.com

Ridgefield Farm
and Orchard
414 Kidwiler Road, Harpers Ferry
304-876-3647
www.ridgefieldfarm.com

Summers Farm
5614 Butterfly Lane, Frederick
301-620-9316
www.summersfarm.com

Winterbrook Farms
13001 Creagerstown Road,
Thurmont
301-271-4826
www.mazeplay.com

   view more articles from the September/October 2008 issue >>

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