Now there’s a neat idea, I thought as I read the roadside sign advertising “Penner Pumpkins and the Scarecrow Forest.” I quickly memorized the posted website and planned to get more information.
In spite of the cold weather the following weekend, my children and I bundled up and headed out. We travelled towards Steinbach on Hwy. 12, turned east on Hwy. 311, and drove 4.6 km. When we spotted the scarecrow wedding in the parking lot on the Penners’ farm, we knew we were in for an adventure.
Surrounding the Scarecrow Forest entrance were pumpkins, gourds, fall arrangements and Indian corn. The winding walking path was a huge highlight for the kids, with 15 child-friendly and entertaining scarecrow arrangements along the way.
Each unique scarecrow had a pumpkin face and many were outfitted in jeans and plaid shirts. Some were canoeing while others were cooking, climbing trees, fishing and golfing, with a brief story posted on a tree by each scene. There’s also the opportunity to complete a letter scavenger hunt, as letters are hidden amongst the scarecrows.
The idea of a Scarecrow Forest originated when owners John and Shirley Penner were brainstorming last year. They have grown and sold pumpkins on their farm for more than 22 years. “It began as a family hobby. Every year we would plant pumpkins and then the kids would sit at the end of the driveway and sell them. Now the kids have grown and we’ve created a business,” John said. They wanted to try something new and offer their customers a fresh experience.
“It’s a new idea to a lot of people. They’re familiar with corn mazes but don’t know what to expect when they hear Scarecrow Forest,” said Shirley. To create the forest, they first made dirt and grass paths in their bush. However, this year with 14 inches of rain, they could not keep the paths smooth and dry so they had to purchase gravel.
The Penners also included youth groups in creating the scarecrows. Shirley purchased clothes from the local thrift store and each summer, they hire a group to spend a day stuffing clothing with straw. Then as she has time, Shirley constructs the scenes, each year adding more to existing scenes and creating new ones.
The addition of the Scarecrow Forest to their pumpkin business intrigued many families, so Penner Pumpkins expanded this year by constructing two large sandboxes, slides, zip lines, bale maze, and pumpkin-painting station. Their farm animals include roosters, goats, and kittens who also enjoy visitors. The newest feature is the Pumpkin Sling Shot that shoots pumpkins more than 150 feet, and the Scarecrow Forest is still evolving as they continually add new features. On Thanksgiving weekend, visitors had the opportunity to create their own scarecrows with the clothing, straw, pumpkin heads and stands provided.
The Penners strive to include activities and packages for different age groups and they host field trips, birthday parties and youth groups. Recently a large group came at night and brought flashlights. “There were some moving scarecrows in the forest as well. The youth didn’t know which ones were real and which ones were stuffed until they touched them,” said Shirley.
“Visiting and meeting people,” is the most rewarding part about the business venture, Shirley says. “When guests say they have never seen anything like this before, I find that rewarding.” They also enjoy offering a local activity for the entire family.
The Penners look forward to welcoming many more families and groups to their farm. For more information, visit their website at www.pennerpumpkins.comor call Shirley at (204) 371-5556.
– Sheila Braun writes from Landmark, Manitoba