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Tuesday October 20, 2020
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Wiard's Country Fair Returns

Orchard season is upon us

by Maggie McMillin

Published in October, 2020

After buying tickets for Wiard's Country Fair, I received a confirmation email from "Fearticket." It's the haunted house ticketing system used for Wiard's Night Terrors events, but considering Covid concerns, I wondered if it was now an apt platform for daytime tickets, too.

The following Sunday my sister and I arrived at 1 p.m. to a parking lot at reduced capacity. We donned our masks and joined the young families heading to the entrance, where we skipped the short ticket line and used our phones for contactless check-in.

At twenty-four and sixteen, we're older than the average patron of this family destination (and a bit heavier, too, as swings designated for "friends under thirty pounds" reminded us). Signs throughout Wiard's eighty acres remind visitors that masks are required of anyone older than five, and inside the busy Country Store jugs of hand sanitizer sit at each entrance and floor markers snake past bagged apples, frozen pies, and cider sippy cups. Unfortunately, these precautions are easily ignored in the rush for a cider slushie or a cinnamon donut, and enforcement is inconsistent.

The wide variety of attractions does keep visitors distanced: the place was buzzing, but there were almost no lines. The open-air nature of the sprawling grounds helps, too, and allows for generous social distancing. For young visitors there are multiple playgrounds, inflatable slides, games, and more: a loud "apple canon" ($5 for 3 shots) was especially popular when we visited. The hayride, a jaunty tour through the haunted forest (sans terrific nighttime theatrics), implemented sneeze guards to separate a dozen or so passengers. Apple picking was closed, which may have contributed to the heavy traffic in the Country Store. Apples will be ready this month, but Wiard's website warns that a spring frost has weakened this year's crop.

The most enjoyable parts of the Country Fair? Having sadly aged out of the Corn Queen Combine Playground and the mini tractor race track, I'd say it's the donuts (buy them

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warm!) and the silly, unplanned things: the wild dance moves of an enthusiastic teenage employee or the woman belting out "Play That Funky Music" to an audience of two in the Karaoke Kabin. Careful planning and attention to rules is more important than ever (stand here, mask on, more sanitizer!), and these small moments reminded me of the simple joys of a more relaxed, more spontaneous time.

If you don't mind the $20 admission, Wiard's reduced operations are generally well-planned, especially in outdoor spaces. Given the number of visitors, though, more cautious fairgoers might want to pass on this perennially popular destination.

Wiard's Country Fair is open every Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.     (end of article)


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