Jun 18, 2015
Quick Pass system helps manage lines at Colorado farm market

If it’s fall in Erie, Colorado, the place to be is Anderson Farms. The century-old, family run farm is a popular destination with people willing to drive hundreds of miles to visit and take part in its Fall Festival, which runs from the end of September until Halloween.

“This year will mark our 19th season,” said Rachelle Wegele, who runs the farm and its agritourism businesses with her husband Michael and parents Jim and Brenda. “We grow over 70 varieties of pumpkins, squash and gourds. Our customers love the treasure hunt and usually end up leaving with a couple standard orange pumpkins, along with a few odd colors, shapes and sizes, too.”

The festival includes hayrides to the pumpkin patch, where guests can pick the pumpkin right off the vine. The farm is home to Colorado’s oldest and largest corn maze: approximately 30 acres with 7 to 8 miles of trail. Other activities include the barrel train, the mine cars – a larger train that holds six to eight people per car, pulled by a tractor – pedal karts, farm animals, a playground, gem mining, duck races, private campfire rentals, gourd launching and a pumpkin cannon.

“We also have a haunted hayride and ghost town experience that we call Terror in the Corn. This 45-minute attraction begins with a hayride that drops guests off in the cornfield. They follow a single path through the cornfield to a haunted ghost town, and we have actors and props along the way,” Wegele said. “In 2012, we added a Zombie Paintball Hunt. This takes guests on a special hayride that has paintball guns attached to the railing. Guests get to shoot paintballs at props and people dressed as zombies.”

In 2013, the farm added “Farm Lights,” building three-dimensional characters and placing them on the side of the barn. After 7 p.m., at the top and bottom of every hour, the characters light up and sing to a song.

Quick Pass

To help with the crowds at the Fall Festival, Anderson Farms added a Quick Pass system about a decade ago. This system is used to better control the lines for its Terror in the Corn and Zombie Paintball Hunt.

“We charge $10 above the regular rate for this ticket. For Terror in the Corn, we load a wagon with 40 to 50 people at a time and will put about 10 Quick Pass holders on a wagon at a time so that both lines keep moving,” Wegele said. “The key is to keep both lines moving. If the customers in the regular line think that their line is not moving at all, they will get upset.”

To attract large groups, the farm recently began working with limousine companies that create group packages and drive the groups to haunted houses around the area – giving them the Quick Pass for a regular price.

Initially, they tried making Quick Pass available for hayrides during the day, but saw a lot of confusion and miscommunication among staff and customers, so they eliminated it several years ago.

Growing season

It’s not just the festival the farm is known for. Anderson Farms grows corn, pumpkins, squash, gourds, alfalfa and wheat. The farm harvests its corn in November and also grows a few rows of Indian corn, sold for decoration. Straw bales are used for farm decoration and are also for sale. A few years ago, the farm started growing potted mums – and although not a huge seller, they will be added to pumpkin displays for some color.

“We aim to entertain and educate our visitors,” Wegele said. “We know that many people are several generations off the farm. Our activities give them an opportunity to visit and farm, have a great time – and we hope that they will learn a few things along the way.”

While fall is the busy season, the farm offers field trips in the spring and summer. It also has a barn that it rents out for events like weddings, company picnics and class reunions. Last summer, it hosted the local Google office’s company picnic.

Keith Loria, VGN Correspondent

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