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Current North Carolina COVID-19 restrictions are in place to help the population stay healthy and limit the spread of the virus, but those restrictions and the prevalence of the virus have put a real damper on events ranging from birthday parties to rock concerts.
Even seasonal events such as fall open houses are falling by the wayside as businesses and community groups err on the side of caution.
“It’s such a shame, but we wanted to keep our customers safe,” said Janie Thomas with Great Gardens on Wiggins Mill Road in Wilson about the decision to cancel the annual fall open house. “We grew 800 mums and our pumpkins have come in, so we hope that people will still come out and enjoy our big, open outdoor space and visit our peacocks and guinea foul even without an official open house.”
Likewise, Raleigh Road Garden Center also canceled its fall open house plans but hopes customers will still visit and enjoy a variety of plants, gifts, goats and other animals that reside there. The garden center is optimistically planning a Christmas open house but has not yet scheduled a date.
NO STOPPING A HAYRIDE
One area farm is making sure that adults and kids alike can count on one fall tradition this year — hayrides.
Deans Farm Market is again offering hayrides and a select number of autumn-themed activities every weekend during October. Through Oct. 31, a limited number of hayrides will be available. But, and this is very important, reservations for these hayrides must be made in advance. In order to stay in compliance with CDC guidelines, there will be no tickets purchased at the door this year.
Hayride tickets must be purchased at https://deansfarmmarket.com/event-calendar/. Weekend days and times are available to choose from, although some time slots are already sold out. The Deans Farm website temporarily crashed when tickets first went on sale, an indication of how popular this event has become.
Tickets are $12 each for everyone 2 years old and older and include a free pumpkin, access to the playground, maze, picnic area, animal barn, Jolly Jump and the snack shack. “We are excited to be able to offer a safe, family-friendly activity that all ages can enjoy,” said Courtney Sharp, Deans Farm event coordinator and educator. “We will be checking temperatures before boarding the hayrides, and we are also increasing the number of hand washing and hand sanitizing stations and encouraging social distancing.”
Ticket holders are asked to arrive 30 minutes before their hayride’s time of departure. Stopping first at the playground, riders are allowed to disembark at the playground and stay as long as they would like before moving to another area. The playground closes each day at 4:45 p.m. with the last hayride returning to the main farm area at that time.
Social distancing will be observed on the hayrides, with staff wearing masks and visitors encouraged to do so as well.
Five or six vendors will be on-site on hayride Saturdays. Pelican’s SnoBalls and 3 Stars Kettle Corn will be at the farm every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the hayride weekends. A different food truck will be featured each Saturday with the truck menus posted on the Deans Farm event page on Facebook the week before. Tickets are not required for access to food trucks or vendors.
“We are limiting the number of vendors on the weekends throughout October and spacing each vendor out,” Sharp said. “Our vendors will be located at the front market, allowing free access to the general public.”