Fort Valley festival entertains people of all ages

jmink@macon.comOctober 27, 2012 

FORT VALLEY -- In a Fort Valley orchard, with acres of cornstalks and peach trees in the background, 5-year-old Aryah Palms tumbles inside a giant, clear hamster bowl.

“It was crazy,” squeals Aryah, of Fort Valley, who has bright pink hearts painted on each cheek, “because I slipped, and I fall.”

When asked to describe the best part of the Fall Farm Festival at Lane Southern Orchards on Saturday, most participants simply gestured toward the hundreds of beaming children like Aryah, who giggled and bounced from the playground to the corn maze to the inflatable obstacles.

“They get to do it all,” said Kathy Young, corporate events manager for the festival. “We’ve got a good turnout and the weather is spectacular.”

Young, who has been planning the festival for the past six months, was worried that the weather might be too windy or rainy. But only a few clouds and a light breeze greeted the crowd.

The festival has been held at the orchard for about five or six years, Young said, and proceeds are donated to The Children’s Hospital in Macon.

With just a $5 admission fee, Young believes the festival has benefited from a weak economy, which has encouraged many parents to seek less expensive entertainment for their children, she said.

Jane Blair, of Fort Valley, has brought her grandchildren to the festival for years, and she enjoys “the price, for one,” she said.

“It’s really, really reasonable to bring your kids out.”

Blair laughed and rooted on her 4-year-old grandson, Kenny Tennille, who was taking part in a rubber duck race. Kenny gripped a water spout handle with his tiny hands, gritting his teeth and bending his knees as he pumped water through a pipe. Slowly, his duck began to float to the other end.

“I’m winning,” Kenny, of Fort Valley, declared.

Children raced across the orchard’s playground, hustling past a sign that read “Have a Peachy Time.” They climbed atop tractors, jumped across hay bales, winded their way through a corn maze and piled onto a wagon for hayrides. But some of the most popular attractions were the rides and inflatable obstacles.

A portion of the orchard resembled a miniature amusement park, where children sported harnesses on the bungee trampoline, scaled a tower of nets on “Spider Mountain,” tumbled down giant slides and rolled inside life-sized hamster bowls that floated in a small pool.

As she passed that section, Sylvia Robinson, who traveled from England to visit a pen pal, snapped pictures.

“It’s amazing the things they’ve got to play on,” she said. “I haven’t seen anything like this in England.”

Still, the festivities were not only geared toward children.

A handful of adults danced under a picnic shelter as a band, complete with tambourines, cow bells and saxophones, belted familiar tunes. Nearby, Faye Ward sat in a white rocking chair, listening to the music.

“They have a lot of entertainment for the young people, as well as the older ones,” said Ward, of Fort Valley, adding that her favorite activity was “doing what I’m doing right now -- listening to music. And the food.”

As he waited in line at a nearby food tent, Gary McDaniel began nodding his head to the rhythm of the band. Before long, he was dancing with others in line.

“I love it,” said McDaniel, of Gray. “It’s entertaining, and it’s good, clean, family fun.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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