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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
• • •
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
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
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
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
Through Fields of Orange
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
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
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.
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.
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
• 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.
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.
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
• The record for the largest pumpkin ever grown is 1,140 pounds.
Source: The Farm Bureau for Kids
Pumpkin Patches and Corn Mazes
8302 Ramsburg Road, Thurmont
7612 Willow Road, Frederick
Jumbo’s Pumpkin Patch
6521 Holter Road, Middletown
Mayne’s Tree Farm
3420 Buckeystown Pike,
The Pumpkin Patch
15505 Broadfording Road,
11129 Gehr Road, Waynesboro
414 Kidwiler Road, Harpers Ferry
5614 Butterfly Lane, Frederick
13001 Creagerstown Road,
view more articles from the September/October 2008 issue >>
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