With the return of the sun and warmer temperatures, business was steady at farms and nurseries around the county during the first weekend of October, as families ventured out for pumpkins, hay ride, corn mazes and other fun.
At Lake Ridge Nursery, Suzanne and Jim Sayre, of Occoquan, were sitting at a picnic table hanging out while their 12-year-old daughter Kateri and her friend were off in Playland's moonbounces, Halloween Kastle, train, slides and teepee.
"This is a nice thing to do for the kids," said Mrs. Sayre, referring to an afternoon at the nursery, located at 3705 Old Bridge Road, Woodbridge.
There's even a haunted green house with ghosts and goblins throughout and motorized toilets that people sit on and race each other. The pumpkin patch was set up near the end of September and remains open until the end of October.
"On Halloween weekend, we will have everyone dress up and have a costume contest," said Susan Gray, who has owned the nursery with her husband Donny for the past 19 years.
Pumpkins cost 59 cents per pound, and the average price for a pumpkin is $8 to $10, said Gray. In addition to its assortment of orange and white pumpkins, Lake Ridge Nursery has apples, gooseneck squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, Indian corn, myriad of plants and flowers and a year-round gift shop featuring brand names such as Vera Bradley, John Medeiros, Thymes, Shelley Kyle, Mariposa, Spartina, Cucina, and Trollbeads.
Lake Ridge Nursery also sells home baked pies and concessions such as hamburgers, hotdogs, cotton candy and soda. In the winter, the nursery sells fresh cut and artificial Christmas trees, greens, and wreaths; and in the spring they have an assortment of fresh flowers, said Gray. Lake Ridge Nursery's hours are 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday through Sunday. For more information, log onto the website.
Nearby in Nokesville, Jim Gehlsen was excited to have a pumpkin patch once again. His Evergreen Acres, 12801 Hazelwood Drive, did not have this fall feature since 1996. He has three acres of pumpkins, which include varieties such as Jack-B-Littles, Gourds, Baby Pams, Howden, and Big Mac.
Gehlsen's Evergreen Acres offers a tractor-pulled hayride down into the pumpkin patch. He had ten families come by each day this weekend, and said his busiest time will be the middle of the month. Evergreen Acres' pumpkins cost $60 cents per pound. The pumpkin patch will be open Saturdays and Sundays from Oct. 2 - 31. Hours are 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Parking, admission and the two-county hayride to the pumpkin patch are all free.
Gehlsen's 98-acre farm spans two counties – Prince William and Fauquier; but the pumpkins are in Prince William. He and his wife have been in the farming business since 1984, when he planted his first Christmas tree.
"I started this farm from scratch," said Gehlsen. "It was all corn fields. There was no road, no farm, and no house."
In addition to the three acres of pumpkins, he has 40-acres of Christmas trees in various stages, 2,000 blueberry patches, cushaws, asparagus, cucumbers and even popcorn.
"A lot of people don't know that popcorn grows on a cob," he said. "You can put the cob in a paper bag inside a microwave and it will pop right off the cob."
Right now, it's all about the pumpkins. However, starting the day after Thanksgiving, it will be all about the Christmas trees. He provides saws, shakers, netting and twine to his customers. For more information, visit Evergreen Acres' website here.
Just like at Evergreen Acres, patrons of Yankey Farms "can actually go out to the field where it grew and pick it," said Jay Yankey.
Yankey and his wife rent 10-acres of fields. Besides the pumpkins in the fall, Yankey farms is know for sweet corn, melons, and tomatoes in the summer.
Yankey's pumpkin patch has 15 different varieties that range in shape, size and color. They are not just orange and white, but blue too, he said. Patrons can choose a little red wagon to pull down into the field. On Sunday, one little boy was sitting in a wagon proudly holding his family's chosen pumpkin.
The average family spends about 90 minutes at the farm, said Yankey. This includes going into the patch to select a pumpkin, going through the one-acre corn maze and the kids' ride through the fields on the tractor-pulled cow train. Patrons can even feel free to bring a blanket and lunch, as there is a designated picnicking area.
"We had a group here yesterday who had a picnic," said Yankey.
The pumpkin patch opened the last weekend in September and will remain open weekends through Oct. 31. Hours are Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 12 noon to 6 p.m. For more information, log onto Yankey Farm's website.
Here are some other area businesses featuring fall festivities:
- Lake Ridge Park, located at, 12350 Cotton Mill Drive, will have host Pumpkin Patch Mini Golf on Saturday, Oct. 23 and Sunday, Oct. 24 from 1-4 p.m. It's $5 per person and open to all ages. Putt through the course and receive a goodie bag at the end. Don't forget to wear a Halloween costume!
- Cox Farms' Centreville Market, located at 15621 Braddock Rd, has Fields of Fear every Friday and Saturday night in October. This includes Cornightmare, a walk through creepy cornfields in the dark; darkside hayride; bonfires and a giant torchlit slide on the Firegrounds; and entertainment, games, and food. Its daytime Fall Festival began Sept. 25 and runs through Nov. 7. Unless it rains, it is open daily from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. through Oct. 31. In November, its hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pumpkin Madness will occur Nov. 6 and 7, where leftover pumpkins will be hurled, smashed, dropped and squished in various activities. Also, there will be hayrides, giant slides, music, animals, rope swings and more. For more information, log onto Cox Farm's website.
- Old Mine Ranch, located at 17504 Mine Road, Dumfries, is a 40-acre working farm adjoining Prince William Forest Park. The pumpkin patch opened October 1 and remains open until November 7. It features pumpkins, straw or hay bale maze, tractor-pulled hay rides, picnic area, pony rides, petting zoo, and farm animals. For more information, log onto Old Mine Ranch's website.