Get ready — Cox Farms is about to open its pumpkin patch to the public for its 30th annual fall festival. And this year, because of requests from the public, it's added an extra weekend to each end.
"People have so much fun here, they wanted us to stay open longer," said spokeswoman Lynn Hertz. "And this year, we've added all sorts of neat things."
Located at 15621 Braddock Road in Centreville, Cox Farms will be open daily, from Sept. 28-Nov. 3, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., with the last entry at 5 p.m. Phone: 703-980-4121; Web site: www.coxfarms.com. Weekdays except Columbus Day, admission is $7 for those 2 and over; weekends and Columbus Day, it's $9.
Once inside the 50-acre fantasy land, it's a children's paradise, complete with hayrides, rope swings, mountain slides, baby animals and lots more. Kids love crawling all over the hay pits, tunnels and castles, whizzing down a mountain slide and swinging on a rope before jumping joyfully into a mound of soft sponges.
Cox Farms offers three rope swings and 10 mountain slides, including Panda Pagoda, Miners' Motel, Cox's Mountain, Volcano Mountain, Fairyland and Winnie the Pooh's house. The Volcano Mountain slide is new this year. Said Hertz: "It has special sound effects to make you feel like you're sitting on top of a volcano — and there'll be dragons on top."
The hayride route is also new this year. Travelers will enjoy new artwork along the way, and it'll even go right through a huge barn filled with all sorts of surprises. It won't be scary, but there'll be lots of flashing lights and unusual sounds.
In the kiddie area, owners Eric Cox and Gina Richard (husband and wife) have built a life-size replica of the game, Candyland, and children can actually walk around and play it. Winnie the Pooh's house has been refurbished and, all around the pumpkin patch, things have been freshened up and repainted so everything looks inviting.
There's also free entertainment. Farmer Jack does a musical, cow-milking show with Bingo the Cow, singing and telling stories. Folksinger Johnny Vince sings funny children's songs. Weekends also feature face painting, pony rides and magic shows.
But that's not all. Kids can feed kids while frolicking with baby goats at Billy Goat Village, and they can also see rabbits, cows, chicks, baby pigs, ducklings, sheep and donkeys in the barn.
Apples and fresh cider, plus hot applesauce on the weekends, are available free. Weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., hot dogs, pizza and snacks will be for sale; a larger menu is offered on the weekends. Visitors may also bring their own food (no alcohol) for picnics on the grounds.
Everyone gets a free patch pumpkin to take home, and local apples, kettle corn, pies, fresh cider, fruit jams, honey, Indian corn, gourds and fall decorations may be purchased at the farm market.
On Columbus Day, Oct. 14, $1 of each admission will be donated to the Western Fairfax Christian Ministries (WFCM), and Cox is asking all visitors that day to bring canned goods with them for the WFCM's food pantry for needy families.
Cox is also holding special, Weekend Festival days, each with their own theme. Kicking it off, Sept. 28-29, is "The First Taste of Harvest," offering free samples of nearly everything sold in the farm market, including brownies, pies, poundcakes, peanuts, jams and jellies.
Toward the end of October, D.C. United will bring its "Kicks for Kids" soccer program there, and team players will be on hand to sign autographs. Children wearing their own soccer uniforms to this event will get something off their Nov. 2-3 admission.
That last weekend, Nov. 2-3, will be a Pumpkin Smashing Festival. Kids may bring in their old Halloween pumpkins and have fun smashing them to bits.
Birthday parties and groups are welcome and may call for reservations. Last year, nearly 100,000 people visited Cox Farms; in good weather, some 6,000 people flock there on the weekends. But, said Hertz, "We have so much room that no one feels crowded."
Besides families, the pumpkin patch is popular with Scouts and with school, church and play groups. "It's a pretty cool place," said Hertz. "We have kids from every facet of society from throughout the Washington Metropolitan area."
"I love to see them come out and have a great time," she said. "It's all low tech; kids use their imagination and run, jump, skip and have fun. They especially love chasing their parents around and throwing hay on them. Every year we make it bigger and better, and we're geared up and ready to go."