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December 15, 2020

Farm Christmas light show, activities draw thousands

It’s a fabulous event for young children. For me, it was an experience for my grandchildren. But I could see it being something as a romantic evening for couples.
— Warrenton-area resident Hazel Eringis
Christmas at Maple Tree Farm
• What: “Agritainment” attraction, featuring holiday-themed light displays, games, storytelling, puppet shows, “cow train” ride, petting zoo and other activities.

• Where: 8275 Maple Tree Lane, Warrenton.

• When: 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays; 5 to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 20; 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 26, and Sunday, Dec. 27; 6 to 10 p.m., Monday, Dec. 28, to Friday, Jan. 1; 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 2.

• Tickets: $13 for adults, $10 for those 65 and older, $8 for children 4 to 12;
children 3 and younger get in free.

• Owners: Patty and Jeff Leonard of Midland

• Website: www.mapletreefarmva.com

• Facebook: Click here
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
By word of mouth, the Warrenton grandparent learned of Christmas at Maple Tree Farm along the town’s eastern edge and decided to give it a try.

On Saturday night, Hazel Eringis, 64, took her two grandsons — Eli, 5, and Noah, almost 2 — to the holiday-themed light festival that also features games, storytelling, puppet shows, cartoons projected on the side of a big barn, a “cow train” ride, a petting zoo, fire pits and characters such as “The Gingerbread Man,” “The Grinch” and “Olaf the Snowman.”

The concession stand has hot chocolate, mini doughnuts and s’mores kits for sale.

“It’s a fabulous event for young children,” said Ms. Eringis, 64. “For me, it was an experience for my grandchildren. But I could see it being something as a romantic evening for couples. It was just very nicely laid out and very enjoyable.”

Ms. Eringis added: “I loved the lights. I loved seeing all the different creativity of all the decorations. I’ve always been a Christmas person. So I love all that.”

The half-mile trail of Christmas light displays and activities occupy about 50 of the farm’s 143 acres, said Patty Leonard, whose family owns the property at 8275 Maple Tree Lane.

The Leonards last year added the Christmas celebration to its two other key annual “agritainment” events — Cows-N-Corn and the Haunted Hallow.

Visitors can complete the half-mile Christmas trail in about 30 minutes, Mrs. Leonard said.

But, “if you stop and watch and take in absolutely everything, you’re probably at 45 minutes,” she said. “And, of course, if it’s cold, you’re going to walk a little faster.”

Christmas at Maple Tree Farm opened Nov. 27 and will close Jan. 2. (See box for ticket prices and schedule details.)

So far, more than 3,000 people have visited the Christmas extravaganza, Mrs. Leonard said.

As of last weekend, ticket sales already had more than doubled last year’s total.

“That’s because last year was our first year,” Mrs. Leonard said of the spike.

She declined to provide specifics related to the event’s ticket sales and revenue.

Sold in 15-minute blocks, tickets can be purchased online only.

To ensure maximum safety because of COVID-19, the Leonards ask that visitors arrive at the farm no sooner that 15 minutes before their ticketed times.

“We want people to walk leisurely with their families — stop, take pictures etcetera,” explained Mrs. Leonard, 58. “So what we did was, we were selling (tickets) in 15-minute increments so people wouldn’t all come at the same time.”

Under that system, the event easily meets the governor’s guidelines for the maximum number of onsite visitors, she said.

“We provide plenty of space and reminders to people to be socially distanced,” Mrs. Leonard said.

So far, visitors also have complied with mask requirements, she said.

“Everybody that we have had has been cooperative,” Mrs. Leonard said. “When we have reminded them, they have said, ‘OK, let me go back to the car. I’ve got a mask.’ Or, we have extra masks” for them.

Mrs. Leonard’s daughter, Elizabeth Noonan, 29, helps on weekends with the Christmas event.

“One of the things I think we accomplished with Christmas is making it more a community event for families,” said Mrs. Noonan, a Prince William County elementary school teacher. “Pretty much from 5 to 7 or 7:30, it’s your families. And about 8 o’clock hour, it’s couples that are coming out after dinner to stroll through and see the lights and spend some time together.”

In ordinary times, the event’s outdoor setting combined with the Christmas theme and music offer people a unique chance to get out of the house, she suggested.

The search for safe kinds of activities because of COVID-19 has heightened the event’s appeal, Mrs. Noonan said.

“It gives people an opportunity to get outside and do something, yet we have the space for everyone to spread out and not have to worry about ‘Am I too close to somebody’?” she said. “It alleviates that stress sometimes, even if just for an hour to be outside.”

The Leonards joined the agritainment market in 2001, when they launched Cows-N-Corn at the family’s 400-acre plus Al-Mara Farm near Midland to supplement their dairy operation income.

From spring through fall, Cows-N-Corn activities have included “meet and greet a cow,” hayrides, puppet shows, butter-making demonstrations, a corn maze, a play area and cow train rides.

Because of the pandemic, the family this year cancelled all Cows-N-Corn events.

As a result, the Leonards lost $50,000 in revenue, Mrs. Leonard estimated. In 2019, more than 5,000 school children participated in Cows-N-Corn activities, she said.

The Leonards also operate the Haunted Hallow, a Halloween attraction at Maple Tree Farm that started there in 2010.

Held from the last week of September through Oct. 31, the Haunted Hallow this year drew more than 7,500 people, Mrs. Leonard said.

The Leonards got out of the dairy business three years ago because it no longer made financial sense, she said.

“The U.S. dairy farmer has been too good at their jobs,” Mrs. Leonard said. “We’re producing too much milk. Therefore, there’s not a stable pricing system, and we could not make the numbers work to stay in business. We were losing money producing milk.”

Established in 1954, the dairy farm milked about 325 cows at peak, she said.

Beginning next year, Cows-N-Corn will move from Midland to the Warrenton farm.

Mrs. Leonard, who manages the agritainment activities with her husband Jeff, 62, cited a few reasons for the consolidation at Maple Tree.

For one, “we’re just trying to rejuvenate Cows-N-Corn,” she said. “We think there’s some opportunities with the Christmas trees. And, we can do the same educational activities at Warrenton.”

The family already has planted about 4,000 Christmas trees at the Warrenton farm, Mrs. Leonard said.

Planted in phases, some will be ready for sale in about three years.

While Maple Tree allows the family to more efficiently operate agritainment activities, the property also has better road access and a higher profile than the Midland farm, Mrs. Leonard said.

“Warrenton is better known than Midland,” she said. “People already have a perspective of how long it’s going to take them to get (to Warrenton) and where they’re going, versus going to Midland, which is a curve in the road.”

Contact Don Del Rosso at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-0300.


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Jeffersonian American · December 16, 2020 at 7:48 am
Christmas Blessings to All-
Savefauquiercounty2019 · December 16, 2020 at 7:23 am
Merry Christmas to you and your family.
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