Jack-A-Lope Acres Fall Festival adds innovation to traditional fall pumpkin patches
IGNACIO – Off District Route 318 near Ignacio, nestled among the surrounding burgundy hills and looking out over the valley below, is a quaint farm with a large corn maze on one side of a large parking lot and a park on the other side. Violin-filled folk music can be heard from loud speakers and the scents of goat and cider competing in the air.
Two years ago, Ignacio resident Kristen Johnston and her husband Luke decided they wanted to grow and sell pumpkins on the land they were renting from local landowner Ezra Lee. Sutherland Farms, a popular pumpkin spot in Ignacio, is permanently closed, and the couple decided there would be no better time to usher in the fall tradition. I gave them the green light to do whatever they wanted on the land, and the owners of Sutherland Farms gave them their blessing.
When Kristen surveyed the property, her entrepreneurial spirit began to see more potential than just an area to grow and sell pumpkins.
“I’ve always loved event planning,” she said. “I did a bunch of research and joined several groups on Facebook. Mostly other farms have pumpkin patches. I have a lot of ideas from them. Then it all started happening really fast.”
The leasehold farmland was then called “Jack-A-Lope Acres,” and over the past two years, it’s become a hot destination for families during the fall months. There are plenty of activities for both parents and kids to enjoy, including barrel races, bullring, horse and roller coaster rides, giant slides, giant swings, separate jumping platforms, potato and candy cannons. The farm also offers movie evenings with special campfire pits and s’mores, and on Sundays Sugar the Unicorn appears to delight the young children present.
One of Jack-A-Lope Acres’ biggest selling points is the corn maze. The maze spans 10 acres with 10-foot-high corn stalks, and there are two entrances: one for kids and one for adults looking for a bit more of a challenge. The labyrinth itself is intricately cut out in the shape of the United States, with God Bless America in one corner and the Statue of Liberty in the other.
Due to a boost in business from the previous year, Jack-A-Lope Acres has hired twice as many employees, 30 to 35 on any given day, and their jobs range from working in the newly constructed ticket booth to cashier indoors- Expand the gift shop to monitor Very enthusiastic users of the potato cannon.
“This is a really fun environment to work in,” said first-year employee Karen Goodbold. “I love seeing all the people coming.”
“Anything kids love to do, adults love too,” added Bethany Baker, a sophomore.
Another enthusiastic “employee” is Briellen Lesky, who helps her mother work a day inside her newly organized snack shop, The Food Bin, since Ignacio and Bayfield schools don’t offer classes on Fridays.
“I love to help Mom out,” said Braylin, stepping in to make Jack-A-Lope Acres’ signature Signature Loaded Apple Slushies that come in mason packets customers can keep. “I just love hanging out here. It’s fun.”
Even after all the attractions that Kristen and Locke have added to the ranch over the past year, they’re still looking for what they can add to Jack-A-Lope Acres in the future.
“My husband and I have talked about adding a mini oil field next year,” Kristen said. “A lot of the things we use here for slides and games are recycled oilfield equipment. I also like to put together an event center for weddings.”
Whatever new developments await Jack-A-Lope Acres in the future, Kristen knows it is finally all about providing something different and fun to the people of Ignacio and its surroundings.
“The community wants this, and we have to be a part of it,” Kristen said. “…It’s really cool to experience.”