Summer is over, the water park is closed, and the lake is getting too cold to swim in. So where can you take the children for a day of autumn fun?
For several weeks each autumn, Bear Wallow Farm, a working farm located in western Pulaski County in south-central Kentucky, puts on its Autumnfest of family entertainment. The farm will be open for guests through the last weekend in October.
Owned by Larry and Judy Burton, Bear Wallow Farm was previously mainly a tobacco farm. It still is an active farm of around 250 acres growing hay, corn, and, of course, pumpkins.
After visiting a number of tourist farms, the Burtons saw the potential of starting a new business 11 years ago. They knew school field trips would help get the business going.
On weekdays during Autumnfest, Bear Wallow Farm hosts school bus loads of children, who come from as far as 75 miles away in Tennessee and Kentucky. Admission is $5 per student and includes a free pumpkin gleaned by the kids from one of several pumpkin fields on the farm.
For the general public, Autumnfest activities start at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and end at 10 p.m., with Sunday hours from 1-6 p.m. The giant pumpkin weighing contest is always held on the Saturday of Autumnfest’s first weekend (September 17 this year). Bear Wallow Farm is the only official GPC (Great Pumpkin Commonwealth) weighing station in Kentucky. Last year, the four largest pumpkins were all more than 1,000 pounds. The two largest were grown in Pulaski County—one broke the state record—and were displayed at the farm for the season.
So what activities can be enjoyed in a family visit to the farm? You can first visit the large barn before the entrance. Here you can buy local Bear Wallow Farm honeys, decorative squashes and gourds, potted mums grown at the farm, pumpkins, T-shirts, autumn display items such as scarecrows, and much more. This year, the farm added its own maple syrup.
Admission to the farm area is $6 per person. To the left of the entrance is a popular mining sluice, or water channel. For $5 you can purchase bags of soil and sand containing many tiny bits of precious stones such as emerald, topaz, garnet, quartz, and ruby. You place your bag’s contents in a sifting tray and pan in the running water—like miners of olden times—to uncover your gemstones.
Near the mining sluice is a variety of playground equipment, plus hay-bale displays that kids can crawl around and through. There is also a small maze in a field of cane for younger children.
One of the farm’s most popular features is the tractor and wagon ride out to the pumpkin fields. Visitors ride past exotic and farm animal pens and fields that include buffalo, llamas, emus, and an African Watusi, a breed of cattle. Along the way, visitors see hay piles made to look like spiders and animals.
At the pumpkin fields, visitors fan out to pick one or more pumpkins. There is a $3 charge for each pumpkin picked. Visitors are also treated to the shooting of a “pumpkin chucker”—a cannon that fires pumpkins up to hundreds of feet in the air.
High on the popularity list are the farm’s zoo-like animal displays. Visitors can get close looks at ducks and fish in ponds, and llamas, emus, goats, and donkeys in pens, as well as a variety of smaller creatures and birds in cages. Children can feed the ducks and fish as well as goats housed in the main barn. Also popular is a 4-acre cornfield maze fittingly designed in the shape of a bear.
There is a food concession stand as well as a covered eating area in the large barn. There are picnic tables, and new picnic shelters have been built to accommodate groups. Groups of 25 or more can reserve an eating area and bring their own food; groups of 50 or more can reserve shelters. The facilities are used for company picnics, church gatherings, family reunions, and social groups.
Shelters can be reserved from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and from 4-10 p.m. Bookings start early in the year and are often filled to capacity. Saturday evening groups can roast hotdogs and marshmallows at campfires.
Bear Wallow Farm
1225 Piney Grove Road, Nancy
To visit Bear Wallow Farm, go west on Cumberland Parkway from Somerset to the Nancy exit. Turn left (east) on Ky. 80 to Ky. 2993. Take a right fork on Piney Grove Road off Ky. 2993; the farm is on your left.
More fall fun with pumpkins
11946 Old Lexington Pike, Walton
U-pick pumpkin patch, hay rides, corn maze, farm animals. Gourds, straw, field-grown mums, and corn stalks for sale. Call for availability for school field trips and group parties and events. Open 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays in October.
Christian Way Farm
19590 Linville Road, Hopkinsville
U-pick pumpkin patch, corn maze, straw or hay-bale maze, straw castle, hay rides, gift shop, picnic area, farm animals, and group farm tours. Call for availability for school tours through the week. Open 10 a.m.-
5 p.m. Saturdays in October.
Red Mill Farms
1442 Red Mill Road, Elizabethtown
Pumpkin patch, corn and hay-bale mazes, hay rides, bee observatory. Honey from Red Mill Farms’ own hives, fresh eggs, snacks, picnic area, petting zoo, and more. Open to public in October weekdays 3 p.m.-8 p.m.,
Saturday 8 a.m.-8 p.m., and Sunday 1 p.m.-
6 p.m. School tours booked daily, 8 a.m.-
Haney’s Appledale Farm
8350 W. Ky. 80, Nancy
Open Monday through Saturday 8:30 a.m.-
5:30 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m.-5:30 p.m. The farm has pumpkins in season, and grows 25 varieties of apples and 10 varieties of peaches, plus pears and nectarines. Pick your apples or buy them at the roadside market, which also has apple pies, jams, jellies, specialty sauces, baskets, handmade toys, crafts, honey, sorghum, candies, cheeses, and more.