Picking through the Truckee Meadow’s local harvest festivals
Almost overnight, leaves have transformed from spring-green to warm shades of red, yellow and orange. Cozy sweaters came out of storage, and coffee shops started adding pumpkin-themed beverages to their menus. Alongside the cooler temperatures and comforting meals comes more than a few autumn-inspired festivities. The area is bustling with harvest festivals, where locals and visitors alike can enjoy classic seasonal activities, like picking the perfect pumpkin in the patch and getting lost in a corn maze.
Close to downtown Reno, Ferrari Farms is hosting its 22nd annual harvest festival on Mill St.
“My father started the farm here in 1971, and I got the idea to start the patch,” said owner Frank Ferrari, Jr. “It started as a small patch on the side of the road, and every year we started adding something new. We added a corn maze and a bounce house, and every year we're still adding something new.”
The pumpkin patch at Ferrari Farms charges by size, with little pumpkins costing just $1. Among the standard Halloween-orange pumpkins, there's also white, green and heirloom varietals in funky shapes.
One of the most popular activities is the corn maze, which anyone you catch coming out will tell you is “bigger than it looks.” The staff says there is about a 50/50 success rate if you attempt to navigate it without getting any clues. Chances go up if you ask for a hint from a staff member.
Best friends Aliyah Velasquez, age 7, and Zoey Olguyn, age 8, felt excited and confident they'd be able to find their way through. They chanted “Corn maze! Corn maze!” at the entrance.
“I love seeing the kids and the families,” said real estate agent Michelle Duhamel, who decided to work at the Ferrari Farms Harvest Festival after a busy summer season, “I've never seen anyone cry on their way out, that's for sure.”
Friday through Sunday, the crowds at Ferrari Farms double, as festival-goers gear up for the Zombie Hunt ($20), where participants climb on a trailer loaded with paintball guns and get to shoot at staff dressed up as zombies. If safety is a your concerns, don't worry, the team wears padded uniforms to protect from the impact of the paintballs, but guests should take care to not point their barrels at anyone else.
The Zombie Invasion continues north, in Sparks, at Andelin Family Farm. Andelin Family Farm hosts two Zombie Paintball events per night ($15 per person, $5 for an additional 100 paintballs) on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. For even more scary good times, visitors can experience the Corn Creepers Haunt ($13), where actors in their best Halloween costumes lurk around corners and foliage, ready to surprise visitors as they walk through a haunted cornfield.
If scary isn't your thing, Andelin Family Farms continues the action with Scarecrow Paintball Safari ($10 per person, $5 when added to the pumpkin patch) on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., where guests ride on a hay wagon and shoot paintballs at scarecrows.
Another reason people love harvest festivals is all of the animals they'll get to meet at the farms. Ferrari Farms is home to curious llamas, adorable baby goats (who sometimes hang out at the barn's yoga classes), timid sheep, and Sweetheart, a gentle cow whose been bottle-fed on the farm her whole life. At Andelin Family Farms, kids can enjoy rides on ponies and horses ($5).
At Corley Ranch's Harvest Festival in Gardnerville, the pig races take center stage, where pigs Wilbur, Charlotte, Bacon and Pumpkin race three times a day on weekends.
“The races are different every time” said Festival Coordinator John Rapher. “You never know which one is going to win. It's always exciting—we've had them jump and clear the four-foot fence.”
After the pig races, champion gymnasts Mason Parodi and Malik Depasquale perform an aerial acrobatics show, carrying out flips and maneuvers up to 40 feet in the air. The $8 entrance fee gives you access to the pig races, hay slide, straw maze, farm animals, mini-golf, wagon rides, Huck and Schuck and a corn maze. Train rides and the giant apple sling shot cost extra. Local food vendors are on-site on weekends when the event draws crowds of up to 300 people a day.
Ranch Owner Paul Corley hopes that the festival gives kids an opportunity to learn and grow.
“It's a wonderful thing for the kids,” said Corley. “We teach them about pumpkins and about how to take care of things—because a lot of children see the pumpkin, they carve it and then they throw it in the garbage, but there's more to a pumpkin than that. Maybe they would like to take the seeds out and dry them and grow their own pumpkin patch.”
In Fallon, Lattin Farms hosts a Fall Festival with Scarecrow Making Factory ($6) and a Wizard of Oz-themed corn maze.
If guests plan on heading to one of the farm-based harvest festivals, they can also grab some fall-themed decorations, fresh produce and locally raised meats. Ferrari Farms sells decoration corn, dried corn stalks and colorful squash and gourds, which you can use for either cooking or decorating. Andelin Family Farms sells farm-raised beef and pork products, fresh eggs and sugar and spiced baked goods.
Weekends at the Harvest Festivals are more crowded than the weekdays and generally offer more activities, but weekdays tend to be calmer.
“Normally we come mid-week, and pick out pumpkins, but it's fun to come on the weekends because there's more stuff going on,” said Corley Ranch attendee Samantha Deputy.
There's really something for everyone at the area's colorful harvest festivals. Kids smile ear to ear as they scour the patches for pumpkins, young couples hold hands on wholesome dates, and the occasional selfie-obsessed teens pose for the perfect Instagram post.
Andelin Family Farms
8100 Pyramid Way, Sparks
Dates: Tuesday – Saturday until Oct. 31.
Activities: Pumpkin Patch | Pony Rides | Hay Rides| Barrel Train Rides | Farm Animals | Face Painting | Corn Cannon | 5 Acre corn maze | Scarecrow Paintball | Zombie Paintball
4701 Mill St.
Dates: Daily until October 31.
Activities: Pumpkin Patch | Corn Maze | Corn Walk | Zombie Paintball | Bounce House | Farm Animals | Face Painting | Hayrides
859 U.S. Hwy. 395, Gardnerville
Dates: Tuesday – Sunday until Oct. 31
Activities: Pumpkin Patch | Hay Rides | Pig Races | Hay Slide | Kiddie Land | Mini Golf | Corn Maze | Giant Apple Sling Shot
1955 McLean Road, Fallon
Dates: Saturdays until Oct. 26
Activities: Pumpkin Patch | Wizard of Oz Corn Maze | Scarecrow Factory | Crafter's Market | Pumpkin Tower