Family trips are always hard to plan around this time of year. The kids are back at school, work schedule is always hectic and family time always seems tough to come by.
One destination that is always a hit this time of year is Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek with its annual Pumpkin and Chili Festival.
“People love to come out here to create memories,” said Carrie Schnepf, co-owner of Schnepf Family Farms. “I love when families plan their vacations around this time. We see kids that have come here, grow up and now volunteer at the festival.”
Schnepf Farms has been a Queen Creek fixture since 1941.
“We remain a legacy for (our) community, (for) people to come see a real working farm,” said Mark Schnepf.
The farm’s main crop is peaches, which it harvests between April and May. Schnepf Farms is also among the largest producers of peaches in Arizona.
The Pumpkin and Chili Festival, which started in 1995, is a great way for families to spend quality time on the farm.
“Everything takes place right here on our 40-acre farm. The farm is open for everyone to walk on through and see what we do,” he said.
Ten acres of the farm are devoted to the corn maze. Each year, a prominent local celebrity, usually a professional athlete, is selected as the centerpiece for the attraction. Past honorees include Larry Fitzgerald, Charles Barkley, Luis Gonzales, Joey Lagano and Muhammad Ali. This year’s selection is recently retired Arizona Coyotes star Shane Doan.
“We loved it,” Schnepf said of the unveiling. “We loved having his family here and having Fitz and Gonzo coming out to surprise him.”
The festival features farm-fresh foods ready to serve hungry festival goers.
“All the food here is good here,” she said. “Of course, we have chili, corn, cornbread, ribs, hot dogs and a lot of pumpkins.”
One hit menu item is pumpkin chili.
“Every year, we’ll have a group of people saying, ‘I want some pumpkin chili, I want some pumpkin chili’ and I would have to tell them every year, ‘We don’t have it. We have pumpkins and we have chili,’” she said. “Finally, after one year I just told my husband, ‘We gotta start making the darn thing.’
“It probably took me like 10 times before I had a recipe that I felt complemented both the chili and the pumpkin very well.”
The pumpkin chili became an instant hit and has been the go-to meal for festival goers ever since.
“It’s been four years, and people are still wanting that pumpkin chili,” she said.
Other than great food, the festival is home to many fun attractions for any ages. Just in the past year alone, Schnepf said, all attractions for kids have been revamped, starting off with the carousel.
“We wanted the carousel to go back to its original look; that classic 1940-’50s image,” she said.
“We are repainting the entire carousel, as well as modifying some of the other rides for the younger ones.”
Aside from that, kids can enjoy horseback riding, hog races and even BMX competitions.
“It’s all about creating a family-friendly environment where everyone can enjoy and have fun,” she said. “We’re here to create some fabulous memories for your family.”