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Farm festivals with a different angle

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Pumpkins! Hayrides! Scarecrows! And Tilt-A-Whirls? (Oh my!)

October is a great month to get out and enjoy the crisp, clean air, the bright blue sky and the fall festivals. Sure, most of these festivals have petting zoos and corn mazes and the usual pumpkin-related activities. But here are three with a little something extra that piqued our interest.

Derwood’s 22nd Harvest Festival takes place on a farm that dates to the turn of the 20th century.

“It’s not just your average fall festival,” says Grace Yick, who has been working at the festival for about nine years. “We try to give the kids a real experience of what farm life might have been like for them in the early 1900s.”

That means that families can visit about 50 hands-on stations and experience how farm families survived. Learn candle dipping, canning and how to do the laundry the old fashioned way — with a washboard. Other activities include learning how to milk a cow, grind corn for chickens with a corn sheller, make a doll out of corn husks and even make (and play with) marbles. With so many stations, there usually is no wait for an activity.

Food is for sale, but many families bring picnics and spread out among the old farmhouse, barn and outbuildings. In addition to the learning stations, visitors can enjoy such standard festival fair activities as hayrides, funnel cake, music and a corn maze.

But the goal, Yick says, is “to have real quality activities and a whole variety of them and to not just be really fun but also educational.”

Where is it? Agricultural History Farm Park, 18400 Muncaster Rd., Derwood.

When is it? Oct. 6, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

How much is it? $10 per car (cash only). Some of the activities have a fee of $6 or less.

Herndon’s Fall Carnival Fun at Farm Harvest Days also aims to teach families about farm life in the 1900s. Visitors can milk a cow, churn butter or cut firewood. But what makes this festival different is its carnival atmosphere.

“It is a great time to celebrate and be with your family,” says Todd Brown, the Fairfax County parks manager who has worked at the festival for about 15 years.

That might mean learning all about the chores that had to be done on a farm in 1920, or taking a ride on the tea cups, Tilt-A-Whirl or the antique carousel. Stroll through the funhouse and give the swings a try.

“Think county fair,” says Tawny Hammond, a manager at the park who has worked at the festival for about 15 years.

With music, corn dogs, hundreds of animals, pumpkins and scarecrow-making on this historic working farm, there has to be a little something for everyone.

Where is it? Frying Pan Farm Park, 2709 West Ox Rd., Herndon.

When is it? Oct. 18 and 19, the carnival is open 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Oct. 20, the farm harvest activities run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the carnival runs from noon to 10 p.m.; Oct. 21, the farm harvest activities run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the carnival runs from noon to 7 p.m.

How much is it? Free to attend. Ride tickets cost $1 each, and rides require three to five tickets. Scarecrow-making costs $5, and you must bring long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and pantyhose for your scarecrow. Wagon rides cost $3. Cash only.

The Waterford Homes Tour & Crafts Exhibit, better known as the annual Waterford Fair, takes place in a historic village in Loudoun County. The fair features crafts from 155 juried artisans and includes pottery, weaving, painting and sketching. Many artisans will show children how to make their crafts. Troubadours and barber shop quartets might serenade you as you walk the main street, nibbling on local artisan cheeses and homemade baked goods. Or pop into the fair’s newest addition, a wine garden highlighting eight Loudoun wineries.

The fair also features hayrides, tours of the village and Civil War reenactments.

“This is not just a family event,” says Meghan Blackburn, the fair’s media representative. “It’s for people into history, people who are artsy. It’s an interesting smattering of people.”

Where is it? 40222 Fairfax St., Waterford, Va.

When is it? Oct. 5-7, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

How much is it? $15 in advance, $17 at the fair. Free for 12 and younger. For advance tickets, visit www.waterfordfoundation.org or call 540-882-3018, Ext. 117.

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