It wasn't even lunch yet and Clay, along with the rest of his school mates from the Clearwater School District, had all ready taken a hayride to the pumpkin patch, gawked at a few farm animals, conquered the enchanted maze, and now he was just settling in for a puppet show on farm safety. His visit was far from over -- there was still more to explore.
Clay's parents, Cindy and Jason Jensen, were also on hand for the school's field trip. "It's educational," Cindy Jensen said. "It's really hands-on and a good learning experience for kids."
One of Clay's favorite things to do was milk a cow, which is an authentic-looking wooden dairy cow that children can "milk." The first-time visitor to the patch also liked finding the treasure in the enchanted corn maze.
Clearwater is just one of several schools visiting and Clay is one of hundreds of school children taking advantage of all Beggs Pumpkin Patch has to offer.
Beggs Pumpkin Patch officially opened Sept. 28 and since then, business appears to be booming. Owners Donnie and Sheila Beggs receive so much response from schools in the region, throughout the week, their patch is open for only schools.
Sheila Beggs estimated the patch averages approximately 600 and 700 school children each weekday, although she admitted Mondays are generally the slowest day. Last year, 8,000 school children, adults not included, roamed the grounds of Beggs' farm. Currently, 7,000 school children are booked, and people are still calling, Beggs said.
Beggs Pumpkin Patch features a 12-acre maze in the design of a pirate ship sailing the high seas and a classic treasure chest with gold coins and jewels. A smaller maze in the shape of an anchor sits at the bottom of the main maze and is used for the school children. The maze includes navigation clues and is color-coded to lead questers in the right direction.
Visitors can also take a hay ride, view the Bee Barn, Chicken or play in one of several playing areas like the hay bale jump.
"Just the other day my son asked me where all of the fun places for kids have gone," Beggs recalled. "And it's true. There aren't really any places in the area where families can take their kids for entertainment. We're hoping to become a family tradition."
Eight-year-old Trent Steffens, a third grader at Salem Lutheran School in Farrar, said this is his second year visiting Beggs Pumpkin Patch and it's a lot of fun.
"I picked pumpkins, fed the animals and went through the maze," Steffens said.
Like the Jensens, Trent's mother, Dana Steffens, thinks the patch provides plenty of entertainment for kids."There's a lot of activity for the kids," Steffens said.
"It's just good, wholesome fun. For instance, the puppet show is about farm safety. It's just a great learning experience. This is the first year I've been, and I'm very impressed."
And while children play, some of the adults can wander off to the newly added gift shop and concessions. In the shop, shoppers find fall/Halloween indoor and outdoor decorations and a variety of candles and homemade fudge.
It's not just families in Southeast Missouri that are coming to see the maze and pumpkin patch, either. Beggs said she's received calls and some reservations from as far away as Branson, Memphis, Tenn., Blytheville, Ark., and Maryville and Paducah, Ky.
"It makes me feel good when these big cities are coming here because they want to do something new. When I think of doing something fun with my kids, I think I have to go to either St. Louis or Memphis -- and for them to come here, really shocks me," Beggs marveled.
School field trips are available by reservation only from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday Oct. 1 to Oct. 31. Beggs Pumpkin Patch is open to the general public on weekends from 4 to 9 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.
Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for children ages 3 to 12 for the entire farm area and hayride to the pumpkin patch. Those wanting to visit the entire farm area and participate in the hayride and the maze, admission is $8 for adults and $7 for children ages 3 to 12.