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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #69
October 15, 2008

Good Grief, It's Halloween!

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown + Corn Maze

We love an old-fashioned Halloween, and what better way to conjure up that spirit from generations gone by than to screen It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown with the new witches and warlocks in your family. In our our pre-TIVO childhood, we eagerly awaited Charlie Brown as an annual tradition and weren't sure whether our kids would fall in love with the Peanuts gang just as we did 40 years ago. From the first sequence, they were smitten. Linus and Lucy are in the pumpkin patch and as Linus tirelessly rolls his new "friend" home, he chases behind his bossy big sister, Lucy. Once home, Lucy lays out newspapers to carve the pumpkin and Linus wails: "You didn't tell me you were going to kill it!" That's the genius of the late Charles Schultz -- an intuitive understanding of the world of children that is translated into the memorable words and indelible images we all grew up on: Linus and Sally waiting in the moonlit pumpkin patch for The Great Pumpkin, Lucy tempting Charlie Brown with the football and Snoopy defending his doghouse from the Red Baron. Our family's Halloween was off to a sweet, old-fashioned start.

Following Lucy's lead, our kids clamored for a visit to the local pumpkin patch. This year, we decided to go beyond pumpkins, and surprise them with an afternoon in a Corn Maze. We began with a visit to the shady produce stand filled with gleaming fruits and vegetables where the kids had a friendly bicker as they guessed the weight of this year's star pumpkin. Enthusiastic eyes spotted an awesome pumpkin bouncy house, a hay bale pyramid for scrambling and other harvest delights; we promised to return after the corn maze, and pushed ahead to a gate leading to four acres of towering corn. We pulled out our special map, and discovered that this year's maze has an election theme. Signs bearing riddles are posted at different points, and visitors are encouraged to try to find and solve each riddle. Our kids were quick to scamper into the maze, where plants towered over us, hiding all traces of the San Fernando Valley. Our kids tried valiantly to follow the map, but we all lost our bearings before long. We followed our oldest child, official Family Navigator, back out of the green labyrinth, and purchased sweet fruits and bright pumpkins before heading home.

Film Title: It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Directed By: Bill Melendez
1966, Rated G, 25 min

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Film:
  • Red Flags: None. A classic for kids and adults of all ages.
  • Remastered Edition Features 2 Charlie Brown Specials: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was first aired 4 days before Halloween, in 1966. Of course, those were the days when there were only three TV stations and Charlie Brown became a household name and family tradition. Amazing that, a generation later, Charlie Brown has such staying power! That's our definition of a classic. The disc also features It's Magic, Charlie Brown, which first aired in 1981.
  • See It On You-Tube: Although the quality is not as good, your family can gather round the computer to watch this film in three segments. Click here for the link.

Our Tips for Talking to your Kids about this Film:
  • Friendship Savvy:  Ask your kids whether they would like Lucy as a friend.  Is she ever nice, or always a rotten tomato? 
  • Charles Schultz Savvy:  The Peanuts comic strip, written by Charles Schultz for fifty years, was published in 2600 newspapers in 75 countries around the world, and read by 335 million people.  Historian Robert Thompson noted that the saga of Charlie Brown and Lucy, Linus and Snoopy was "arguably the longest story ever told", tellling virtually the same unchanging tale of determination despite defeat. Time fades away when you read the strip --  the kids never grew up, the football was never kicked and Charlie Brown always failed his tests at school -  and, of course, we love him still.


Corn Maze

Age Recommendation: all ages

Time Allotment: half day

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Adventure:
  • What Worked for Us: Keeping the kids together in the maze is important, because stragglers can get lost. It helped when we asked the older child to lead the younger ones, with parents keeping up the rear guard.
  • Hours and Prices: Make sure to check the websites. Some mazes offer a Moonlight option where you can navigate with flashlights. Prices and hours may differ from weekday to weekend.
  • Before You Go: Light long sleeves may be advisable, especially for sensitive kids, because the edges of corn leaves can feel a little raspy. Your favorite cruddy muddy shoes are also necessary: corn + earth + water = a squishy path. Highly allergic-to-corn children might want to shoot a call to the doctor before exploring a maze. Don't forget the sunscreen!
  • Bring An Appetite: We're always looking for ways to get more fruit and vegetables in our lives. We kept snacks very light on the drive, and encouraged our children to shop the farm stand.

Our City Editors' tips for enjoying this Popcorn Adventure around the USA:
  • Anywhere: Google your city + corn maze. Check your local pumpkin patch to see if they've included a maze this year. Try the Corn Maze Directory for help finding a maze near you.
  • Boston: As far as corn mazes go, Sauchuk Farm on Center St. in Plympton has created an adorable one. Shaped like a trio of jack-o-lanterns and covering 8 acres of land, families should check it out on weekends through October. Adults cost $8 and kids, 4-12, cost $6.
  • New York: No matter where you are headed for your Fall getaway- upstate, Connecticut, New Jersey, or Massachusetts, you'll be sure to find a corn maze along the way. Click here to find one along your route. Our best tip: getting lost is half the fun, but play it safe and don't forget to mark your entrance point!!
  • San Francisco: South of San Jose, Swank Farms is plotting its ninth annual Corn Maze, as part of its Screamworks Sinisterium, running every weekend up to, and including Halloween. In Half Moon Bay, the immensely popular Andreotti Farms is hosting its annual corn maze, along with fresh produce, a pumpkin patch, rides, and more.
  • Washington, D.C.: Take a ride to The Corn Maze in the Plains in Virginia's horse country. Open now through Nov. 4th from 10pm to 6pm. Older children might enjoy the Moonlight Maze Craze, check the website for dates... and bring your flashlights! In Maryland, head to Zekiah Farms in Waldorf, where you can wind your way through two corn mazes. Open  now through Nov. 2nd.

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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