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Fall into family fun at nearby farms

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
October 23, 2011
— Pumpkin patches.

Pumpkin lands


Pumpkin festivals.


Century farms and farm markets.


Rock County is bursting with fall family fun in many rural communities, including Janesville, Edgerton, Clinton and Beloit.


Local families who took advantage of the beautiful October weather Saturday weren’t disappointed by what they found at Hazeltine’s Century Farm, six miles west of the city on Highway 11.


“This is perfect. I think this is great,’’ said Rachel Schmitt, Evansville, accompanied by her husband Nick and 2-year-old son Alex.


“It’s close to home and doesn’t cost and arm and a leg. It’s a nice day and we wanted to do something outside,’’ she said.


And they did.


For $7.50 they had already worked their way through the nearly 3-acre corn maze, designed as a scavenger hunt.


“It was fun and we saw the train go by,” Rachel said of the first experience for herself and her son.


“Before we leave, we’ll probably see the animals,” she said, as Alex ran back and forth through the sandbox.


The Hazetines have been selling pumpkins for six years, but added such activities as a corn maze last year. This year’s features include a petting zoo with 65 animals, a half-hour train ride over a creek and through the woods, a 20-minute wagon hayride on straw, plus pumpkins and gourds, Indian corn, corn shocks and squash.


Wagons and wheelbarrows also are provided to haul your goodies to your vehicles and there’s a porta potty if you plan to stay for hours like most families do.


“They stay and stay,” said Wendy Nelson, a fourth generation Hazeltine, who lives on the 155-acre farm with her husband, Dave, and two children.


“We just want families to have a good time on the farm,’’ she said.


They aren’t alone.


According to the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin, the tourism industry is dominated by thousands of small family-owned and operated businesses around the state by hardworking people who are making a real and positive economic impact on their communities.


In addition, fall is the state’s second busiest season after summer, according to TravelWisconsin.com that also reports travelers spent nearly $2.9 billion in the state during the fall of 2010.


At Hazeltine, families were climbing aboard the train for rides shortly after the farm opened at 11 a.m. Saturday.


“We’ve been a family farm, but are now just entering the activities and entertainment segment so we’re just in the phase of figuring out what families want, which is fun for them and us,’’ Wendy said.


“It appeals to all ages. The 2-year-olds like the sandbox. The 4- and 5-year-olds love the bigger animals. The 9- and 10-year-olds love the corn maze. And grandparents love the train,’’ she said.


Before expanding in 2010, attendance figures weren’t kept.


Last year, the farm was busy as visitors came back multiple times, but not so much that families couldn’t have fun, Wendy said.


Adding new elements, on top of the pumpkins, has probably doubled attendance, she guessed.


“We’d like to attract 120 people a day,” but it’s not quite there yet, Wendy said.


The growing appeal of local family farms that offer fall activities, she said, is “people are driving shorter distances, and from within a 45-minute radius, for entertainment.’’


Families also want to keep their spending down, which they can do at Hazeltine’s.


It’s $8 for all day—11 a.m. to 6 p.m.—for all activities or $3 each for the petting zoo, hay ride or corn maze or $4 for a train ride.


So if you haven’t taken your family to a fall, fun outing yet, you haven’t missed your opportunity. Hazeltine’s will be open Thursday and Friday, Oct. 27 and 28, when school is out The last weekend this fall will be Oct. 29 and 30.



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