An a-maze-ing time of year

By Don Benjamin


An a-maze-ing time of year

Photo by Robert Conley Red Shed Produce's eight-acre corn maze.

Hold onto your hat, autumn is here! And to celebrate the arrival of the fall season, area locations are overflowing with fresh produce, corn mazes and pumpkin patches.

Orchard Valley Farms & Market near Paonia features a pumpkin patch at the end of a ride on the "Pumpkin Express." The train takes kids from the Orchard Valley Farms market through the orchards and to a big pumpkin patch where kids can pick their pumpkins. Kids can choose from tiny or full-sized pumpkins.

The pumpkin patch is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Halloween; train rides are available on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Train rides are $2 per child; pumpkins are sold by the pound. Orchard Valley Farms is located at 15836 Black Bridge Road, Paonia. More information is available by calling 970-527-6838.

Throughout October the public is invited to enjoy DeVries Produce's 10-acre corn maze, eight-acre pumpkin patch, straw bale maze, corn pit slide, and horse-drawn wagon rides. Wagon rides are available Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 14-15 and 21-22 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The mazes, pumpkin patch and slide are available 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day and a night corn maze will operate Friday and Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. through Oct. 27.

Autumn activities culminate on Saturday, Oct. 28, when DeVries Produce hosts the Olathe Volunteer Fire Department's 15th annual Punkin Chunkin' Festival and Haunted Night Maze. The Oct. 28 extravaganza will open with the national anthem and a sky diver will deliver the American flag. Other events include "punkin chunkin" (tossing pumpkins for distance and accuracy), raffles, a helicopter pumpkin drop, tractor pulls, kids' corral, petting zoo and archery range. As part of the Saturday event food concessions will be available and the Haunted Corn Maze will be open from 6 to 10 p.m.

DeVries is also known as "The Friend-ly Farm" and it is definitely a family affair with every generation contributing. Richard and Pamela Friend own the produce operation, continuing the work of her parents, George and Elizabeth DeVries who began the enterprise in 1943. Their daughter, April Mason, is a spokesperson for the Punkin' Chunkin' event and her son Chris helps with the family farm. Son Randy builds the corn mazes, and Randy and Mandy Friend's children Mary, 8, and Jack, 11, help out by riding ATVs along the corn maze paths, packing dirt down to create smooth walk-ways for visitors.

DeVries Produce has been at its present location since 2011: three miles south of Olathe and seven miles north of Montrose on Highway 50, between mile markers 85 and 86, at the junction of Gunnison Road and the highway. For additional information call 970-323-6559.

Robert and Jannifer Conley, the owners of Red Shed Produce, have big plans for October. Robert designed and built this year's corn maze using just a tape measure, graph paper and a hoe. Throughout October from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. visitors can enjoy a farm animal petting zoo, hay slide, hayrides, pumpkin patch, and scavenger hunts in an eight-acre corn maze. On Friday and Saturday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m. the corn maze transforms into a challenging Night Maze. The Night Maze will also be operating from 7 to 9 p.m. on Halloween night.

The Red Shed produce season runs from July to October every year. The Conleys gather fresh produce from peach and apple orchards owned by her mother, Shirlene Cunningham, and from their large garden. They also buy fruits and vegetables from many local growers. The Conleys have owned Red Shed for 12 years. The location at the intersection of Highway 92 and 1800 Road has been a produce stand since the 1960s. For additional information including event times, call 970-874-8888.