It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! Will Linus find the Great Pumpkin this year? Or, will some youngster navigating the corn maze at Beasley’s Orchard beat him out? The Danville, Indiana, orchard is one of a few orchards across the United States participating in the 50th anniversary of Charles Schultz’s “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”-themed corn mazes.
The corn maze – which consists of four miles of paths in a small area – was designed by nationally renowned maze artist Brett Herbst. The maze is navigated by a series of questions on a passport. Answer correctly, and you’re given a correct direction to take. Answer incorrectly, and you may find yourself going down an unbeaten path. Choose wisely.
The corn maze, an annual treat at the orchard, is just a part of the Fall festivities for the 70-year-old farm. Visitors can take a wagon ride to the 15 ½-acre “U pick ‘em” pumpkin patch. I think that’s half the fun for families with young kids or couples of all ages.
Kids of all ages can test their bouncy skills on a giant air pillow that’s part of the Barnyard Bonanza, a play area that also includes an arcade for people to toss footballs, baseballs and basketballs. A rope spider web can be climbed on. Younger kids can play in a sandbox. There are also cornhole games for all ages to play.
A haystack mountain was designed for kids to play on. It’s become a favorite spot for photographers, said Debbie Beasley. Families and groups have had photos taken there. I can see why. It’s a natural for great photo opportunities.
Fall is apple picking time, and the orchard is full of apples. However, the Beasleys prefer to do the picking for the customers. They set out apples for sale at the barn store. In the past, when some people picked their own apples, there were fruit left to rot because people decided they didn’t want to buy that kind of apple or they picked too many, she said.
The Beasleys grow almost two dozen varieties of apples, from Honeycrisp and McIntosh to Fuji. The apple growing season length depends on the apple, Debbie said. That’s another reason the family prefers to pick the apples. Some apples aren’t ready for harvest until late October or early November.
The orchard is full of apple trees – about 4,000. The groves are impressive to view. Imagine how many bushels of apples they pick each year.
The barn is the center of the retail side of the business. Fresh apples, peaches and vegetables can be purchased. Does anything taste better than an apple or peach fresh off the tree?
The Beasleys promote products made by other Indianans. You can get Indiana syrup (who knew Indiana produced syrup?), pickles and, of course, popcorn. Indiana is second in the nation in popcorn production, just behind a state I like to call home.
The barn is also home to a new events room. The upper level of the barn can be used for parties, meeting and other celebrations, Debbie said. It’s new to the orchard.
The barn has been around since the Civil War. Of course, it’s been renovated and has had a couple of additions. But, the heart of it remains a barn form the 1860s.
Beasley’s Orchard will host its annual Heartland Apple Festival Oct. 1-2 and 8-9. The events will include hayrack rides, the maze, as well as live entertainment.
The orchard doesn’t close its doors after the fall season. Christmas at the Orchard kicks off Nov. 19 with the first official visit from Santa Claus. The orchard will also feature fruit and vegetables, and other treats, great for the holiday season.
While Beasley’s Orchard comes across as a smooth-running machine, its roots date back to the mid-1940s, when Milton and Irene Beasley bought a small farm outside Danville (about 45 minutes from Indianapolis). They raised some livestock (hogs, cattle and chickens). One year Irene had an overabundance of tomatoes from her garden. She sent son John (Debbie’s husband) off to the side of the road to sell to passers-by. Through the years, they started selling garden vegetables and apples from their then-small orchard. The rest, as they say, is history. The orchard is transitioning to the third generation of management, as Debbie’s son takes on responsibilities.
Today, Beasley’s Orchard will see thousands of people visit their farm during the season. The orchard hosts school tours. All this from a small patch of land, meant for raising some animals and growing a garden.
We recommend visiting Beasley’s Orchard. We had a great time, and are confident you will, too.