ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Enthusiasm, and pure joy were evident on faces of families and children Saturday afternoon as they attended local farms. So much so that you’d almost forget how much is different from last Fall, with the pandemic.
“We are doing hayrides, pony rides, we don’t have a petting zoo with COVID-19 so we have farm animal exhibit instead, we have a apple launcher slingshot,” said Kimberly Duvall, owner of the Pumpkin Palace in Victor.
In late August, Gov. Cuomo released guidelines for certain farm activities to be held. In those guidelines, hayrides were granted permission to run with PPE and distancing measures in place.
“We do have limited capacity on the hayrides,” said Duvall. “We do ask people if they’re not all in one group, like one family, to keep your mask on for the entirety of the ride just to keep everybody safe, we do have hand sanitizer as well, we sanitize as people get on and off.”
Like many other businesses, Duvall was worried for the Fall at the beginning of the pandemic, as there was a lot of uncertainty: “We weren’t sure we were going to do anything at beginning of year, so it was a bit of a panic, so thankfully we’re able to be open, we are following COVID-19 restrictions.”
She’s not alone. Jo Anne VerHulst and her husband also own a pumpkin patch and farm property in Spencerport, and have been worried about business since COVID-19 hit. In fact, she and her husband had to do away with an event that makes up almost 50% of their business – haunted hayrides. The reason being, guidelines weren’t released until the last possible minute.
“We start setting up haunted hayrides in July, and then all the hiring, the ticket ordering and supplies happens in early August, so when they didn’t make the announcement for agricultural entertainment, as far as fall activities go, it was way to late,” she said. “We are a little worried, yeah. It can be up to 50% of our business, October.”
VerHulst said they still run a day-time hayride on weekends, but there’s markers on the seats to social distancing, and each wagon must only have a third of it’s capacity. They also will still have a jumping pillow, goats, a pumpkin patch, barrel-train ride and walk-around passes – but all of these on a smaller scale. “We are lucky to do other lines of business, but you know we are still hoping we will be here next year … it’s a constant worry.”
Another change for this Fall at her farm: no corn maze. “We never even cut our corn maze for either daytime or night-time, because we didn’t think we could do either. So it’s a real blessing we can still do our daytime fall family hayride on weekends,” said VerHulst.
While there are some losses and concerns for business, owners of both farms say safety of the visitors is the most important thing at the end of the day.
“We’re definitely thinking about next year already, hoping we will have a vaccine and things will be changed,” said VerHulst. “We never want to be part of problem want to be part of solution.”
“We’ve had so much amazing support for the community, that we just can’t be more thankful and thank everybody enough for that,” said Duvall.