Harvest Farm's Fall Festival much more than a maze

It’s more than a maze. It’s a zoo, a playground, a pumpkin lover’s paradise, an obstacle course, a pyramid made from hay bales. It’s a place where you can have your face painted and watch piglets race each other, curious goats climb high into the air and bunnies, snug in a little village all their own.

The thirteenth annual Harvest Farm Fall Festival opened October 2 and will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 31. “We’re usually open for four weekends,” event coordinator Hannah Baltz-Smith said, “but this year we are open for five week-ends, through Halloween. And we’ll have some special events including a costume contest at that time.”

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Located north of Wellington, just off Exit 278 at I-25, the 209-acre Harvest Farm is a rehabilitation center whose mission is helping men break the cycle of addiction and homelessness. Residents remain at the farm anywhere from 13 to 27 months. They work on the farm and are responsible for setting up the various aspects of the fall festival, one of the farm’s major fundraisers.

Baltz-Smith, who has undergraduate and graduate degrees from Colorado State University in hospitality and event planning, is in her second year as coordinator of the fall festival and since April has been a full-time employee of Harvest Farm. She is planning to expand public activities on the farm in the spring and summer.

She says her job has much in common with operating an amusement park, and it is work that she’s passionate about. While the 10-acre corn maze is the best-known feature of the festival, it is only one among dozens of activities for visitors of all ages.

Designed and executed by Maze Play, a firm based in Idaho whose crews travel the country in the summer months designing and cutting corn mazes, the Harvest Farm maze consists of three paths of varying difficulty. Some people like to see how quickly they can find their way to the exit. Others concentrate on searching for all the 12 signs hidden in the maze. The prize for accomplishing this feat is a $2 discount on a Harvest Farm t-shirt. In the early days of the festival, the maze was cut with a lawn mower, but the operation has grown in size and sophistication over the years.

Baltz-Smith says people take anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours to negotiate the maze. The other day she got a frantic phone call from a maze-wanderer asking for help to get out!

Harvest Farm has eight beehives and this year is emphasizing their honey products from unfiltered organic honey to lip balm and stress balls. They are also selling exotic gourmet squash with recipes and pumpkins of all sizes grown on the farm.

The spacious farm is an ideal spot for the festival. There’s room for an area to shoot corn cannons, a dried-up pond that has become a popular play area and a special maze constructed for tiny tots so that parents can keep an eye on the youngest explorers. An “eggucation” station allows kids to check out chickens close up. And there’s a petting zoo for kids to get familiar with the animals on the farm.

A hay wagon takes guests on tours around the farm and there’s a welcoming campfire in the evening. A “smores” kit makes it possible for festival-goers to create their own favorite campfire dessert. Food trucks visit the parking area often so a meal is never far away.

The festival is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and from noon until 7 p.m. on Sundays. A ticket allows the holder to participate in all activities for the entire day. The festival is a great place for field trips, corporate parties or small groups. A discount is available when reservations are made in advance for groups of 15 or more. Tickets can be purchased at the Harvest Farm website.

Adult general admission, 13 and up is $15. Children 4-12 are $13, children three and under, free, seniors 60 and over, $10. The group rate is $8. For more information, check the website or call Harvest Farm at 970-568-9803.