- Category: Family Event Activities
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- Written by Bryan
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Imagine a bright fall day where it is cool enough for a sweater but not a jacket. Everyone is anxious to be outside and enjoy the smells of fall. Kids are running around laughing while crunching through piles of brown, yellow and red leaves. This is the idyllic setting for a Fall Festival which is also known as a Family Fall Harvest.
When done in its entirety, the Family Fall Harvest is a community level event. However, any of the activities listed can be done by themselves for just an individual family or with a couple families getting together.
This is a very large event with many complex parts. If you are doing a whole event and not just a single activity, you will absolutely need help from other families. Include as many families as you can in the upfront planning and you will have better success and more people to help during the event. An initial planning meeting should happen at least two months before the event date. We have provided a printable list of high-level tasks that need to be assigned along with their corresponding time frames.
After the initial planning meeting, follow up meetings should be held every two weeks to track the progress of the tasks. In these meetings, new ideas should be discussed and any obstacles should be addressed. These meetings can be done via phone, email or in person. Someone will need to track the RSVP or sign up for the event to be certain enough materials will be available for the scarecrow contest and enough food for everyone.
We have also provided a sample schedule for the day of the event. As a tip, be sure to post the time for when the food will be served for everyone to eat. During the chili and pie judging times, people may try to eat the food if left out in plain sight.
Scarecrow Building Contest
While this is a cornerstone activity for the entire event, it can be done by itself. This activity pulls the entire family together to accomplish a common goal and to share in any glory. The activity simply involves each family making scarecrow and judges rating each scarecrow on several categories to give out several awards. It is excellent fun for everyone.
The flyers or brochures need to be very clear about several items to avoid confusion by the families:
Families will make their scarecrow at the event.
Each family needs to bring an old pair of pants, an old shirt, an old hat, a pair of shoes, a paper bag (or something for a head), and rope/string.
Families should be creative and use a theme.
The event will provide the stuffing and mounting posts.
Materials & Preparation
The materials needed prior to the event are hay bales, 8 ft long 1"x3" boards (3 boards for every 2 families), a saw, a cordless screwdriver, 1 inch drywall screws (one for each family), extra cord, and packing tape. For each family entry, an 8 ft length and a 4 ft length are needed (cut 8 ft lengths in half for these). Create a point on one end on each of the 8 ft posts by simply taking a single cut at a steep angle from one of the bottom corners. The point will help you drive these into the ground. On the opposite end of each 8 ft post, attach the 1 inch drywall screw on the flat side about 1 foot down from the top.
The set up for this activity includes driving the 8 feet long posts into the ground. Posts should be driven into the ground at least 1 foot deep. A smaller stake may need to be used to create a starter hole since the 8 ft long posts will bend as they are driven down. The 4 ft long boards should be placed one with each upright post. The hay bales should be placed strategically throughout the posts. One hay bale will accommodate several scarecrows.
Running the Contest
Be casual and set a time that scarecrows need to be completed by. As people arrive to the event direct them over to the building area. Be sure to have moderators stay at the activity throughout the building time. It is good to have extra cord and some packing tape available for families that may need help. Give a warning 15 minutes before allotted time is reached. Have the families leave the area when the judges are brought in. Make sure all judges are ready and accounted for prior to starting event.
How to build the scarecrows: Families will need to be instructed on how to build their scarecrows so they will hang properly on the posts. This is fairly easy. Start with the loose 4 ft long board and slide that through the sleeves of the shirt so it becomes the arms and shoulders. This board with the shirt around it, stays detached from the 8 ft long post until finished. The 4 ft board can be laid on the ground while the scarecrow is fully built and stuffed around it. The pants can be attached to the main body by using string like suspenders inside the shirt. Once the scarecrow is built, a single cord should be attached to both ends of the 4 ft board about where the scarecrow's wrists would be like a picture hanging string. The entire scarecrow body is then hoisted up and hung on the small screw towards the top of the 8 ft post. The scarecrow's head may need to be secured to the 8 ft post with some extra cord to keep it upright.
This is a standard food judging activity. It will also provide one of the menu items for everyone's dinner during the event. Chili cook-off events are a standard in community events and greatly enjoyed by many people.
A couple tables will need to be set up in an area away from the masses. One table should be used for everyone to place their chili entries. Another table should be used for the judges to sit down and sample entries. The moderators should bring the chili entries out on batches in small bowls.
Pie Baking Contest
This is also a standard food judging activity. It will provide another of the menu items for everyone's dinner during the event. Pie baking contests can become quite competitive and a point of great pride.
A couple tables will need to be set up in an area away from the masses. One table should be used for everyone to place their pie entries. Another table should be used for the judges to sit down and sample entries. The moderators should bring small slices of pie out to the judges in batches.
Pumpkin Seed Spitting
This was a favorite event for most kids. Everyone takes a turn standing at the spitting line and tries to see how far they can spit their pumpkin seed. This event can be set up and left unattended. Participants can be left to their own honor to record their own distances.
Pumpkin seeds in a bowl
Activity Instructions and Log printouts
Small table on which to place instructions, log and bowl of seeds
Sidewalk chalk to mark off the spitting distances in the parking lot (or spray paint for grass)
Tape measure to set up spitting field
A 20 ft long area needs to be set aside somewhere outside in a field or in the corner of a parking lot. The area should be marked off in 6 inch sections like a football field. These lines can be about 5 ft across with the distance from the spitting line written at the ends of the lines. The Instructions and the Log for people to write down their distances should be placed on a small table at the spitting line along with a bowl of pumpkin seeds.
Air Apple Bobbing
This is a neater and more sanitary version of the old classic "apple bobbing". Instead of letting apples float in water and letting people try to bite one, the apples are suspended from a tree branch using a string.
large bag of apples
Activity Instructions printouts
roll of string to use to suspend apples from tree branches
large paper clips to use as hooks to quickly trade out the hanging apples
latch-hook rug tool (can be obtained from any craft store for a couple dollars)
6 foot step ladder
Find a tree with plenty of branches and use the step ladder to suspend several strings down at various heights from 3 ft to 5 ft from the ground. At the bottom of each of the strings, permanently attach paper clips in a hook like manner. Prepare each of the apples by attaching a 6 inch string to it by using the latch-hook tool to run the string through the core. Tie a knot on the bottom to prevent the string from coming back through the apple. Tie a simple loop in the top part of the string that will be used to suspend from the paper clip hooks.
Running the Activity
Gather a group of participants that wish to "bob" against each other. Hand each person an apple with the looped string and have them select a string suspended from the tree that is their height. They use the loop in their apple's string to attach it to the tree's string. The winner is the first person to successfully bite their apple and show that it is not being held up by the string anymore.
Other Small Activities
Nature Scavenger Hunt
This is an activity that can be done by anyone at any age. Have a box of quart-sized zip-top bags ready along with printed lists of nature items that can be found throughout the grounds. Once a large enough group is assembled, hand each person a copy of the list and a bag. Have them start and the first individual to return with all items in their bag wins. This activity is detailed in the Adventure Scavenger Hunt section.
Set up a large flat 4'x8' board or a long table somewhere in the yard. Place a stack of plain white paper on the table or board with a large stone to weight them down to prevent blowing away. Also, place a bowl full of old crayons with their paper peeled. Gather some leaves from around the yard and place them near or on the table. Do a couple sample leaf pressings and tape them to the table or board.
Table Activities for Inside
It is an excellent idea to have several table activities ready for the individuals that may not want to do any of the outside activities. These can be anything from checkers to printouts of word searches or crossword puzzles.