A taste of the country

Families bask in autumn’s bounty at Harvest Fun Days in Hazel Dell

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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The challenge didn’t seem so daunting for the kids huddled over bins of corn Saturday afternoon: Shuck the entire bin of corn. The fastest wins.

But the minutes quickly passed for the group of children, ages 4 to 8, as they pulled, yanked and picked.

Eight-year-old Conner Leahy of Vancouver lifted his arms in triumph four minutes and 56 seconds later. He was the champion of the Harvest Fun Day corn-shucking contest in his age category.

The prize? A lunch lady figurine, which he proudly showed off to his mom, Martina Leahy, and older sister, Amanda.

“I just worked hard to get all the string off the corn,” the Fruit Valley third-grader explained simply, referring to his strategy.

The corn-shucking contest was just one of myriad autumn activities for youngsters at the annual event at Heritage Farm in Hazel Dell. Hundreds of families, sporting shorts, sandals and sunglasses under the hot sun, flocked to the event.

Many stayed for hours to enjoy everything: Face-painting, pumpkin-painting, ice-cream making, pie-eating contests, scarecrow-making, picking veggies from the fields and petting farm animals.

Last year, Susan Tissot, executive director of the Clark County Historical Museum, which puts on the free event, said about 3,000 people turned out. She expected a similar turnout this year.

Free “country” fun was a draw for many of the families.

Single mom Katie Johnson came with daughter Brooklyn, 4, and son Rian, 3, because the event offered activities she can’t often find near her home in downtown Vancouver.

“We actually wanted to go for a few years,” Johnson said. “This year, it finally happened.”

In addition to two scarecrows that the kids plan to give to grandma, they took away an ear of corn they picked in the field.

Churches in Partnership, in conjunction with the Clark County Food Bank, let families pick a veggie — corn, squash, onions and tomatoes — as a way of teaching the youngsters about agriculture.

“So they get an idea that food doesn’t just come from Safeway,” explained volunteer Renee Darr.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.