9th annual festival gives visitors a taste of ruralism

Walking into the Pierce College Farm Center with the sound of country music in the air, the sights and aromas transport visitors from the urban setting to dust-covered farmland for the ninth annual Halloween Harvest Festival.

The Farm Center is open to the public between Sept. 27 and Nov. 3 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Kid-friendly attractions include pony rides and arts and crafts, but when the sun goes down the center is transformed into a Fright Fest that has thrill-seekers holding each other a little closer.

Hannah Sweiss, 29, and her daughter, Sannah Sweiss, 3, have made the Harvest Festival an annual tradition for the last three years.

“We’ve been waiting for it to open, so that’s why we came on the very first day,” Hannah said.

She said they took advantage of the arts and crafts tent to paint pirate and Frankenstein masks for Halloween and plan to be back numerous times throughout the season.

Sannah was all smiles as she rode the Magical Carousel with her mother by her side.

After the carousel, guests can ride Paint, one of the eight ponies that will be accommodating riders seven days a week.

Wendi Spielman is one of the handlers that works with the ponies. She grooms Paint to get all the dust off and picks his hooves to make sure there are no rocks in them before he gives his first ride.

Paint was selected to give rides because of his calm nature.

“He’s one of our most reliable ponies, real calm and collected,” Spielman said. “He’s one of the first ones we go to.”

Spielman had her first encounter with a horse at a young age, and it was then that her love of horses began.

“I got into it because on my first birthday I went on a pony ride,” Spielman said. “So whenever I have a kid that comes and it’s their first pony ride, and they’re super excited about it, that makes me feel special to give them their first ride.”

The plan is to have each of the ponies give rides no more than four hours a day in order to not overwork the animals, according to Spielman.

Palmdale resident Harley Roque, 20, goes to College of the Canyons and works at the Harvest Festival.

His favorite part of the day is being able to tell kids jokes, while they mine for gems and fossils in the sand at his station.

“What does the farmer plant?” Roque asked, trying to keep a straight face. “Beets me.”

He smiled as a little boy and his family came up to mine for the treasures hidden in the sand.

After the he pours the sand in the strainer, the miners get to keep all the gems and fossils they find, according to Roque.

He also provides them with an information card so the experience is educational.

It is also all about the interaction with the children for twin sisters Marie and Marisa Flores, 18, who were hired to work at the Arts and Crafts tent.

The twins, both Pierce College students whose majors are undecided, help children paint masks and create small art projects.

“I’m excited to watch the different way that they paint the mask, and how some people are creative,” Marisa said.

The twins are looking forward to taking advantage of other activities available for guests.

“The bungee jumping, it’s fun,” Marie said. “Or any of the jumpers are cool too.”

Unlike her sister, Marisa is looking to be frightened by the Fright Fest attractions.

“I’m excited for the scary corn maze,” she said. ” I hear there are chainsaws chasing people, so I’m nervous and excited for that.”

All of the Fright Fest attractions, including the Creatures of the Corn maze, are open after 7 p.m.