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Published October 17 2013

Farm hosts fall fun: Corn maze among highlights of pumpkin parties on Park Rapids farm

Park Rapids, Minn. - Tony Carter has a creative mind.

In fact, this year, 6½ acres worth of that creativity is on display at Carter’s Red Wagon Farm near here. And that’s just counting the corn maze.

Each fall, Tony and his wife, Linda, host a series of Pumpkin Parties at their farm, and the maze serves as a big draw for those events. Each year’s maze features a different theme, and this year’s was inspired by the Itasca region of Minnesota. The maze includes scenery from the area as well as the words “Itasca” and “heart of Minnesota.”

Tony is the creative force behind the attractions at the farm, and the corn maze is just the beginning. For example, there’s also the Pumpkin Propeller.

“It’s a Rube Goldberg contraption that (Tony) came up with probably about 12, 13 years ago,” Linda said.

The cartoonish process involves knocking over jumbo-sized dominoes, flipping up signs that read “PUMPKINS FOREVER” and “feeding” a fake chicken. It all culminates in the launch of a pumpkin.

There’s a “crow shoot” in which visitors try to win prizes by sling-shooting a projectile toward a plywood crow with a hole in it.

“This year, (Tony) made a mechanical scarecrow band, and it’s powered by windshield wiper engines,” Linda said.

Visitors can take a hay ride on the farm. There are giant pumpkins that have been gutted and made into boats. There’s a corn bin for children to play in.

“It’s like a giant sandbox except it’s corn,” Linda said.

There’s a nine-hole miniature golf course, live entertainment and more

Linda says the parties are all-day affairs.

“A lot of parents make the mistake of thinking, ‘Oh, we can go just for a couple of hours,’ and they learn quickly that, no, it’s not something that you can just get through in an hour or two.” Linda said.

The Carters used to hold events at the Carters’ Red Wagon Farm Market, which is located a few miles from the farm and is still in operation. But Linda says the Pumpkin Parties “outgrew” that site, and they moved the event out to their farm in 2011. They’d had much smaller mazes before, but with the move to the larger venue, the mazes grew. Tony created a 4½-acre maze of the state of Minnesota with a giant loon in 2011. In 2012, the maze expanded to six acres and pictured George Washington on horseback with the words “I’d rather be on my farm than be king of the world.”

The farm itself traces its roots back to the 1950s when Tony’s parents moved to the area as rural missionaries. Tony’s father began raising produce to sell, and, in the early days, he marketed the produce from a red wagon; hence the name of the farm and market today.

Tony enjoys developing the attractions that are on the farm and then seeing the enjoyment they bring to visitors. Along with bringing in additional income, he says the Pumpkin Parties add “a little diversity to the work” of raising and marketing farm products.

“I think a lot of it is just really celebrating the harvest,” said Linda. And she also sees the Pumpkin Parties as a way of giving people a look at where their food comes from.

It’s no small undertaking, to be sure. Thousands turn out each fall to take part in the festivities. This year, Linda posted a picture of the maze on Facebook on a Friday and, on the following Monday, it had garnered more than 5,000 shares.

“We have people who drive up from The Cities specifically for this,” Linda said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734

If you go

What: Pumpkin Party at Carter’s Red Wagon Farm

When: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 18, 19, 26

Where: 14766 119th Ave., Park Rapids, Minn.

Info: Admission is $7.50; children ages 2 and younger admitted free. (218) 732-4979; redwagonfarm.net.

If you go

What: Pumpkin Party Lite at Carter’s Red Wagon Farm; event does not include all of the attractions that are part of the full Pumpkin Parties.

When: 2 to 6 p.m., Oct. 25

Where: 14766 119th Ave., Park Rapids, Minn.

Info: Admission is $5; children ages 2 and younger admitted free. (218) 732-4979; redwagonfarm.net.

If you go

What: Carter’s Red Wagon Farm Market

When: Open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday (seasonal).

Where: 16338 County 107,

Park Rapids, Minn.

Info: (218) 732-4979; redwagonfarm.net.