Harvest Festival at Ardenwood Historic Farm

POSTED: October 14, 2008

“I’m going back for more!” said Inga as she disappeared in the maize field. Minutes later she was back with armfuls of Indian corn. Not she needed them. Her husband and boy team had already done a pretty good job at filling their burlap sacks. But it’s so much fun!

Each year, Ardenwood Historic Farm throws a unique Harvest Festival. I attended last year and enjoyed so much that I returned this year.

As you enter the farm yard, fiddler Ray Frank and guitarist Dan Engle tap the rhythm while playing hoedown music and hot cookie scents already fill the air. Currently part of the East Bay Regional Parks system, Ardenwood used to be a wealthy estate going back to the early days of American California.

Purchased by George Washington Patterson in 1856 for farming purposes, the place was baptized Ardenwood after the mythical “Forest of Arden” in Shakespeare’s play As You Like It. It is now an 1890s functioning farm on 205 acres of land shouldering the Silicon Valley. It has everything a Victorian farm should have: a walnut orchard, a farm yard, farm animals, a blacksmith shop, a grain-milling operation and finely combed gardens around a beautiful Gingerbread Victorian house.

The Harvest Festival is one of many historical events that draws lines of locals and non-locals to the gates of this Fremont park. Besides the get-a-burlap-sack-and-pick-corn-off-the-plant activity (a favorite, for sure), families with children love David Maloney’s goofy magic show or the old lady teaching children how to spin and shear wool with special metallic combs. Note that all people picking corn are asked to donate half of their harvest to Ardenwood for their school programs, which I find is pretty neat.

Some of the corn (the Indian corn) is ground into flour, as well as the wheat grown on the property. I went away with two sacks of corn meal, as well as one plastic teddy bear filled with honey harvested from beehives on the farm. In truth, it doesn’t get much more farm-to-table than this.

Other children activities are available such as the immensely popular hand-cranked ice-cream operation next to the musicians, or the tables for making corn husk dolls behind the outdoors kitchen.

Speaking of, my oldest loved the hot crispy oatmeal cookies coming right out of the wood-fired oven and kept coming back for more.

If you need more reasons to go to Ardenwood, there’s a train that takes you for rides. There’s a wooden press to make fresh apple cider. There are quilters threading needles on intricate quilts in the farm yard.

The next special events at Ardenwood will be particularly close to my heart: the Christmas at Ardenwood on December 6 & 7, and the Evening at the Patterson House on December 12. Which to pick? Hmmm…

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