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Waldvogel's gearing up for modified fall season

Gloria Hafemeister
Correspondent
Mike Waldvogel helps his parents Phil and Debbie Waldvogel manage their fall farm entertainment business.  This year, as a way to provide a safer atmosphere in light of the threat of the COVID 19 virus the family has made some changes to provide more social distancing including smaller train cars that put more distance between visitors.

JUNEAU – Change is constant at Waldvogel’s farm in Dodge County between Horicon and Beaver Dam.

The family has been in the “agri-tainment” business for more than 30 years but this year, due to the COVID 19 pandemic they have taken steps to provide even more space for visitors and make sure they provide a safe place for families to have outdoor fun.

Some farms have decided not to open this year but the Waldvogel family decided to figure out a way to make it work.

According to Mike Waldvogel who gave up a full-time teaching job in New London six years ago to help his parents run their fall tour business says the family thought long and hard about how to open their business while still providing a safe atmosphere for their guests.

“We put a lot of thought into what we should do,” he says. “We decided we would open September 19 and run through October as usual but with many precautions.”

He says they wanted to provide the usual farm fun activities but they also wanted to address potential problems. They put a plan into place that includes more sanitizing, closing some of the more confined areas, eliminating the availability of food from their own café and adding extra space to their already huge area that was used for entertainment.

“We added a couple of acres for activities this year in order to spread things out more,” he says.  “We already had a lot of space.”

How much space do they have for entertainment?

Mike says, “Our whole farm is 200 acres but the area we have for entertainment is comparable to the size of 38 Lambeau fields.”

The farm needs a lot of room for things like a corn maze, train ride, miniature golf, petting zoo, play areas and pick-your-own pumpkins.

In all there are about 60 different activities offered. One popular attraction, the haunted barn, will not be opened this year because it is too confined for visitors to occupy safely.

The family added an additional train to help reduce lines and provide individual spaces for passengers on the train. They also re-designed the wagons used to transport visitors to the pumpkin patches.

“In the past we could get up to 90 people on a wagon with three rows of seats but we removed the center bench so the visitors will be more spread out,” he said.

Goats are permanent residents at the farm but other animals for the petting zoo will move in this week for their six-week stay. They get these animals from area youth who have tame animals for 4-H projects and are happy to be able to send them to the Waldvogel farm for a vacation.

During the busy 6 week season the family gets help from about 40 people, mostly part time workers. All of the employees will be wearing masks and guests will be “encouraged” to wear them. Sanitation crews will clean the grounds over the weekends and Mondays the business will be closed for deep cleaning.

Pumpkins are ready for farm visitors to choose at Waldvogel’s Pumpkin Farm.

The popular on-farm café will not be open this year because of concerns that too many people might gather at the same time to eat in the park-like setting outside the café. Instead, the family is bringing in food vendors like those that usually travel to fairs with their food. The vendors will be located in a spacious area away from the activities.

He sees it as a way to give these vendors some business since they lost out on that opportunity with most fairs cancelled this year.

Visitors are encouraged to buy tickets in advance online to reduce contact and lines, but he said it is possible to buy tickets at the farm on the day of the visit as well. Season tickets will not be available this year.

The farm is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1– 6 p.m. and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“We are trying to encourage more people to come in September. Traditionally October is the most popular time for visits but he is hoping to spread out the numbers over more days. He also points out that those who want the biggest pumpkins should come in September when there are more to choose from in the pick-your-own field.

The pumpkins on the farm are doing exceptionally well this year but he says the biggest ones always go first.

They plant 40 types of pumpkins, giving visitors a big choice of shapes and sizes.

Phil and Debbie Waldvogel moved to their farm in 1977 and began raising corn and soybeans. As time went on they got into selling sweet corn and produce and that eventually led to farm tours and entertainment.

In the earlier years of their fall farm entertainment business they also offered tours to bus loads of school children. They gave that up about three years ago to concentrate on family entertainment.

Besides helping on his family’s farm Mike teaches courses on-line. His students include home-schoolers in need of particular classes, Olympians who travel and are unable to attend classes in a formal school setting, and those in need of special classes unavailable at their local schools.

On the farm Mike specializes in marketing and management of the farm tours.  Customers come from a wide area including the Fox Valley, Milwaukee area, and Illinois but the farm is also a popular destination for many local families.

For more information or to order tickets check them out at http://www.waldvogelfarm.com/