“Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” I couldn’t help but belt this out as my family of three went through the corn maze. Celebrating the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, the Dorothy and Toto designed maze was rated by two 9 year old visitors as a 7.5 out of 10 in terms of difficulty. I had to consult with the two girls who were not members of my party because we got stuck halfway through the maze. Clearly we are no experts, but the maze was not the main reason we came to Hartland Orchard’s Fall Festival.
We came for the lure of the countryside where life moves a little slower, the people are friendly, and the experiences memorable. Wristbands are required for anyone over age 2 when entering “Hank’s Fun Field.” While the attractions are not large or dramatic in scale, it’s a perfect outing for the under 10 set who don’t need fanfare. My 7 year old bounced on the jumping pillow, engaged with other children in a stick horse rodeo, milked a life-like cow, buried herself in dried corn kernels, shot the apple cannon and hit the target ($1 per shot), careened down the 60 foot tube slide, and challenged her father to a rubber duck race.
There’s also games like cornhole and a giant chess set, steer head roping, tire pony swings, and a hayride that takes you all over the farm. Admire the chickens and goats, but keep your fingers away from them as the sign says “goats bite.” Cheer on the pig races led by Dorothy from Kansas and Glinda from Oz. The women are also available for photo ops and you can catch Dorothy singing “Over The Rainbow” along with a duo of country crooners.
We wanted to board the hayride, but the heat and the flies kept us from enjoying the lengthy farm tour. It’s a bit early in the season for pumpkins, which is probably why I didn’t see anyone in the patch. There were a few people buying pre-picked ones at .50 a pound.
Our trip wouldn’t have been complete without apple picking. If you want to partake in this activity, you have to drive from the festival site to the orchard. As you approach, an employee will tell you what’s currently available to pick. As of the time this article, they have Gala, Jonagold, Red Delicious and Yellow Delicious apples. One bag equals ½ a bushel which runs $12. This is the only option for picking fruit. On a Sunday afternoon, there was a constant flow of traffic, but there were plenty of apples available. I love that you can drive right into the fields allowing you to easily carry your goods. While some opted for picking poles, my child decided to climb the trees to reach the ripest apples. We filled the bag to the brim, then got in the car to pay upon exit. It was a little confusing and congested as two employees asked us if we had checked out already. Nonetheless, the apple picking was the icing on the cake to our day.
All that fun can make one hungry. There are plenty of good eats available at various stations. The farm market is located at the bottom of Hank’s Fun Field at the parking lot. Here you can find pre-picked tomatoes, freshly made kettle corn, honey sticks, and a limited number of pies and cinnamon sugar donuts. I found the donuts a bit hard and dry for my taste. The market accepts both cash, credit, and debit cards.
Upon exiting the apple orchard, hamburgers ($4), black bean or salmon burgers ($6), and hot dogs ($2) are right off the grill along with chips, and cold drinks ($1). Just past the exit gate is apple cider, apple butter, honey, pre-picked apples, and caramel apples ($4) with or without nuts dipped to order. My husband, who is picky about his burgers being well cooked, went back for seconds. Cash is the only form of payment accepted here and small bills are appreciated.
Good to Know
- As of today (9/16/14), current picking conditions are good for raspberries, tomatoes, pumpkins, and apples.
- Admission is $10 per person. For an extra $1, you can shoot an apple from a cannon. Even though my child loved doing the cannon shot, I felt that the extra charge wasn’t necessary. In October, they’ll be firing pumpkins from a cannon.
- The Hartland Fall Festival is open weekends until October 26; Saturdays 10 am to 6 pm and Sundays 12 to 6pm. Hartland’s orchard and raspberries will be open on Columbus Day, however the fun field will not be open that day.
- Cut your own Christmas trees begins after Thanksgiving.
I saw families that came strictly for the pick-your-own produce, but we decided to embrace both the fall festival and the orchard to make for a fun, relaxed visit.
Photos by Kathleen Molloy.