FORT MILL — Officially, fall began Sept. 23, but folks at the Anne Springs Close Greenway and Springs Farm spent weeks preparing for its arrival.
At the greenway, each weekend from now until the end of October will feature a specially themed fall festival designed to appeal to people of all ages. Although the themes may change from week to week, two features families can look forward to every visit are a four-acre corn maze and an actual, pick-your-own pumpkin patch.
Buddy Faile, director of operations for the Anne Springs Close Greenway, said themes include arts and crafts and farm animals. The corn maze, a popular attraction when the greenway first offered it last year, is bigger -- and better -- this year.
"We increased the size of the corn maze by an acre, just to add a little variety," Faile said.
"What we're going to try to do this year is split the corn maze into two exits. Those who get tired of it can get out halfway through. That exit will be the entrance to the haunted path, so you can have it haunted or not haunted."
Something else new visitors might appreciate this year are pedal carts.
"They look like small tractors and you have to pedal them to make them go. They're popular at agritourism sites around the country and we're hoping to introduce that and get a good response," Faile said.
The thing that really has Faile enthused, however, is the pumpkin patch.
"We partnered with Springs Farm to create an actual patch to grow the pumpkins and where people can come in and pick their own pumpkins," Faile said.
South Carolina's trademark red clay is not ideal for growing pumpkins, but that didn't stand in the way of this project.
"What we're doing is, we plan to have a little wagon ride to take folks down to the pumpkin patch, which we planted in what we call a creek bottom area," Springs Farm Manager Ron Edwards said.
Spread out over four acres are several varieties of pumpkins maturing at different times to help ensure a steady supply for visitors to pick. The soil in the creek bottom - formerly a horse pasture - is "loamy and sandy," Edwards said, making it more suitable for growing pumpkins. Still, Edwards said, pumpkins are a tricky crop under the best of circumstances.
"They're not resistant to disease and funguses and stuff, so you have to stay on top of them pretty tight and make sure you don't get any of that," he said.
"We'd like a few more warm days, but they are at the stage now that they will make it. We're excited about families coming down and kids trying to pick up those pumpkins. I think they're really going to enjoy it."
The festival will also feature an array of concessions are activities, such as kayaking and canoeing.
For more information, go to leroysprings.com and click on "greenway" then "special events."