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At Gritt's, agri-entertainment is an art

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Hours at Gritt's Fun Farm are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Sunday, with extended hours until 9 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is $8 for ages 9 to 60; $6 for ages 3 to 8 and those over 60; free for age 2 and under. Call 304-937-2565 or visit facebook.com/GrittsFarm

BUFFALO, W.Va. -- The kids are running and playing everywhere. Through the corn maze. Atop and through the tunnels of the hay maze. They come shooting down through corn slides into a soft landing in a pit of foot-deep corn kernels. They launch apples for distance from apple cannons and slingshots.

Lois and Bob Gritt couldn't be happier. Call it what you will, but in a few short years they have quietly mastered the art of agri-entertainment at what they are calling Gritt's Fun Farm during Halloween season.

"Last year, we did a little bit under 10,000 people," Bob Gritt said a week before Halloween. "This year we're already over 20,000."

The visitors come to try to puzzle their way through a vast 10-acre corn maze. Or they amble through the smaller, more kid-friendly 2-acre maze chopped through a field of cornstalks.

"It's our second big year," said Lois Gritt, who when asked how many people have been coming out, initially just smiles and says "a lot."

"We easily a lot of days do 200 to 300 kids in school groups. Then, on weekends it's just been packed," she said. "We're attracting people from all over the state. We're getting people out of Kentucky, Ohio."

Fall weather at the sprawling Gritt's Farm used to just mean selling mums and already-picked pumpkins. A little over a decade ago, Bob Gritt opened up a pick-your-own pumpkin patch.

"All of this has kind of blossomed from that," said Lois Gritt, gesturing toward the mazes. The children's play area and beyond.

They first added a small play area, got a good response and Bob and crew kept on building and adding.

"So, last year he decided to move the play area out here. He built the big corn slide area, the hay maze. The wagon rides, the big 10-acre maze, the slingshots. All of that was added last year."

"We got a tremendous response from that," she said. "So this year he decided to expand and get the new corn building that would accommodate more than four or five kids. And he built the big slides, which would accommodate adults as well as kids. We put in the apple cannons instead of just the apple slingshots. We've just had an overwhelmingly good response this year to people coming out."

The corn building is like a huge sand box only filled to the brim with a slide, toys and corn kernels deep enough for children to bury themselves in.

Gritt's Fun Farm is the very definition of family-friendly fun, said Lois Gritt.

"It gets kids and parents outside doing something. It's a place kids can play with their parents, not just the parents watching their kids play. They can literally play with the kids. It's definitely an interactive farm -- let's everybody be a big kid for the day."

The growing Halloween season-focused business at Gritt's Farm has also been great news for the place's bottom line, said Bob Gritt.

"Oh yeah," he said. "It's pretty much saving my farm to keep farming. I do greenhouses in the springtime and produce in the summer. Both of them are big business but not a big moneymaker.

"There's not much money in the produce and greenhouse business right now, but there is pretty good money in, I guess, agri-entertainment is what you call it."

He has a lot of money tied up in this new fall business with 25 to 30 people working on weekends and 6 to 8 during the week. Things have come a long way since he started that pick-your-own-pumpkin patch, he conceded.

"I mostly just started it so the kids would have fun coming out picking pumpkins and not just going to a box store. One thing kind of led to another..."Reach Douglas Imbrogno at douglas@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.


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