Springhill Farms open up to public Saturday

Published 12:09 am Saturday, October 5, 2013

Nobody likes getting lost and asking for directions, and getting lost in a maze can only make things more frustrating. But for Springhill Farm owner Dan Provence, nothing is more fun than designing a corn maze to stump his visitors.
This Saturday, Provence opens his farm for Octoberfest, an annual month-long event where thousands of visitors from Bainbridge and surrounding counties come to experience Wild West shows, Fall-themed festivities, and Provence’s favorite, his own 5-acre corn maze.
“It was kind of devious, thinking about how to get people lost out there,” said Provence, who has been hosting Octoberfest on his land for the past four years. “People always say it’s the best corn maze they’ve ever been in.”
Ironically, the maze isn’t even made of real corn. Instead, Provence uses a Sorghum-Sudangrass Hybrid crop, designed to look like corn but provide much thicker walls at a much lower cost. The crop is grown to knee-height before Provence mows the maze’s trail, which has to be continually maintained to ensure a clear-cut path for visitors.
“Going into it without much money three years ago, I used a tractor and a tiller,” said Provence. “I couldn’t turn sharp corners, so it turned more into a labyrinth instead of a maze. There were too many dead ends. But last year I figured out how to get everything looped together.”
Though visitors may get lost in the maze, they won’t have a hard time finding one of the other popular attractions at Octoberfest: a homebuilt trebuchet Provence calls the “pumpkin chunker.” Standing at 20-feet tall, the medieval weapon uses a thousand pounds of weight to sling pumpkins farther than the length of a football field. Anyone can pay $10 to pick out a pumpkin and pull the lever to launch it across the farm.
Provence’s pumpkins were developed by the University of Georgia specifically to be grown in South Georgia, aptly named the Orange Bulldog.
“I grew about 2000 pounds of pumpkins on one acre this year,” said Provence. “They did really well.”
For someone who is also coming on his 27th year growing and selling Christmas trees, Provence puts a lot of work into the plants and crops on his land.
Other events at Octoberfest include a series of Wild West shows, where Provence himself will play the sheriff. The group putting on the shows will have a cowboy camp for visitors to stroll through, with cowboy actors making the experience as authentic as possible.
“We’re going to do two shows daily, Saturday and Sunday, those first two weekends,” said Provence. “It ought to be a hoot.”
The first and last weekends will also feature a Creek Indian group who will be crafting bows and arrows and putting on demonstrations. Also with them will be a huge teepee that can fit up to 30 people.
The last weekend of Octoberfest features one of the month’s biggest events, the Epic Challenge 5K race. When Provence’s father passed away in 1994, the local cancer society asked to have a race in his honor on the farm. Over the years the race trail has been a training spot for the high school’s cross-country team and was even used to host the Bearcat Invitational. Now, Provence uses the trail for Octoberfest’s very own race.
“We chunk a pumpkin and when it lands, the horn blows,” said Provence. “It starts at the barn and goes out past the Christmas trees, by the corn maze, and into the woods.”
Octoberfest will also feature horse rides and a bounce house. With so many activities going on at Springhill Farms this October, Provence is just excited to show off how beautiful the land is.
“It’s just special to be able to offer those kind of activities for families,” said Provence. “The beauty just captures everybody.”

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