Stonycreek Farm Holds 45th Annual Pumpkin Harvest Festival
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer / Jamie Sangar
Loren Schmierer wanted to teach his four young children responsibility and introduce them to agriculture, so he started growing pumpkins on his 8-acre field. When it came time to harvest, however, Schmierer realized there wasn’t a market for wholesale pumpkins. He started distributing flyers around town, inviting folks to pick their own.
“That’s how it got started,” Schmierer says. “It grew to be so popular that I needed to find a new location so that I could improve and amplify the experience.”
In 1971, Schmierer purchased Stonycreek Farm, an 1860s-era farm situated on 47 acres with plenty of room to hold the Pumpkin Harvest Festival, which has become a beloved annual tradition for area residents.
“We had the first festival in 1972, and we’ve added to it every year since,” says Schmierer, who, prior to owning the farm, used to work at Lilly doing market research. In the late 1960s, while he was working on a project in Pakistan, he got sick and landed in the hospital for a month. While his body healed, his mind raced with innovative ideas.
“During my recovery, I came up with a ton of great ideas for running a pumpkin farm,” Schmierer says. “But I also envisioned so much more.”
Now that he owned Stonycreek, he could implement those ideas, which included hay rides and a slew of fun farm activities designed to entertain families. These days Schmierer and his partner, Elizabeth LaCava, brainstorm without being laid up in sick bay. For instance, in recent years, they’ve added mazes, a zip line and camel rides at Stonycreek.
This fall, the Annual Pumpkin Harvest Festival celebrates its 45th anniversary. As in years past, patrons can enjoy the rubber ducky races, haunted house, pumpkin train, pedal cars, straw pile and pony rides. There’s also a fishing pond for little kids, a climbing wall for bigger kids and a farm animal area with goats, donkeys, rabbits and chickens. In addition, they offer candle making, the cob cannon (where patrons hurl ears of corn to hit targets across the pond) and the Slingshot (similar idea using mini gourds instead of corn). Children enjoy crawling through the giant inflatable Kiddiepillar. Plus, the jumping pillow, a trampoline type of bounce house without sides, is always a big hit with both children and adults. Finally, the zip line, suitable for those 90-plus pounds, was added four years ago.
“Our zip line is unique because we have a suspension bridge that goes up to the first tower where you send people off,” Schmierer says. “They fly 400 feet across the parking lot and end up over the pond. Then to exit, they slide down a slide from the tower where they land.”
Some of the activities charge admission while others are free. Patrons buy tickets — much like at a fair — and distribute them according to the activity.
Patrons may purchase tasty treats at the food barn such as corn dogs, chili fries, elephant ears, kettle korn and apple dumplings. Or they may head to the greenhouse to buy fall decorations such as corn stalks, gourds, Indian corn and mums.
One of the reasons Schmierer chose to buy land in Noblesville is so he could preserve the historic farm buildings that sat on the property.
“We knew that if we didn’t repurpose them in some way, they’d be bulldozed down by developers,” Schmierer says. “We feel good about preserving some of the history of Noblesville.”
Stonycreek was a Native American trade route between Connersville and Noblesville. During evening hay rides, passengers ride across Stonycreek, passing through a sugar grove where maple sugar was made.
“You can still see some of the foundation stones there. It’s just another aspect of the history we like to preserve,” says Schmierer, who enjoys visiting with folks that return each year in search of fresh-air fall fun. “We’ve got the third generation coming out now. Some people haven’t missed a season in 43 years.”
A proud grandpa of five, Schmierer is pleased to run a farm that builds happy memories and long-standing traditions.
“This is our 45th year, and we plan on continuing for another 45,” he says.
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, the 45th Annual Pumpkin Harvest Festival runs Sept. 30 to Oct. 31 and is located at 11366 St. Rd. 38 East in Noblesville. Parking is $5 a car, and free on Mondays. For more information, visit stonycreekfarm.net.