By: Beth Casteel
The smell of barbeque and sweet treats are in the air as Cleveland State students walk into Mapleside Farm’s Pumpkin Village. There’s a slight chill to the air but that doesn’t stop the excited students from starting their adventures for the day.
After getting a map of the 122-acre farm, students started to pick locations they most wanted to see during their time at Pumpkin Village. With the main attractions being held further into the farm, students can be seen walking in groups trying to decide where they want to go first.
There are over 20 attractions for students to enjoy. For student Allison McKinney, a health science major, one of the biggest reasons she went to the event was to go through the corn maze.
“I love corn mazes, so that was my biggest pull to come,” McKinney said. “I thought it was fun. I like fall stuff so it worked out well.”
For Nicole Merlino, the event planner, this was a continuous process. She originally planned on doing apple picking, something that has been a big hit for students in years past. Unfortunately, the apple orchard that Merlino was going to use could not host the event. This did not deter Merlino. Still wanting to give students a fun fall themed event, she decided to look into other venues.
After getting a suggestion from a friend to look into hosting the event at Mapleside, Merlino looked further into what type of activities that this farm had to offer. While apple picking wasn’t something that this farm offers, they do hold festivals every weekend during the fall months for people to come and enjoy the different attractions. Deciding this could be a good change of pace, Merlino contacted the farm to start the process of creating the new event.
For CAB’s event, the theme happened to be the hometown hero’s weekend at the festival. While Merlino didn’t plan on going on a certain themed day, the event was full of things for students to experience. Being held on Sept. 30, students were able to enjoy a variety of attractions such as hayrides, a corn maze, a 311 foot super slide, a jumping pillow and other fun activities.
Wanting to ease students into fall activities to kick off the beginning of October the next day, Merlino thought this was the event to do so. While the festival was geared towards family, this did not seem like an issue for any of the students who attended the event. For students Annie Mange and Garrett Lawrence, this was a nice way to spend the weekend.
Finding a spot to observe the different things happening at the event on steps across from the jumping pillow, the two sat down to enjoy a caramel apple together. According to Lawrence and Mange, this was a good event for them to start their October.
“[This event] kind of eases your way into [fall],” Lawrence said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Despite the obstacle of finding a new place to host her event, Merlino felt confident that this would not only be a good substitution from apple picking, but a good way of letting students get into the fall spirit. Starting her planning process in mid-June, she has six events that she creates per semester. Once finished determining what she will be doing, it’s a nonstop process of setting things up until the events happen.
“It’s just a continuation. There’s just always something to do whether it’s making the Orgsync sign up, contacting the vendor again or in this case, changing who I was going with,” Merlino said. “Until the day of the event, it doesn’t stop.”
With such a strict time frame, Merlino worked tirelessly in order to plan the perfect event for the students interested in attending. According to Merlino, her chair gives her the opportunity to give students who live on campus, and off, the chance to get out of the bubble of Cleveland State and explore the things happening in and around Cleveland.
For students who do not have a car to get to the events she hosts, Merlino makes sure transportation is never an issue. She never wants the reasoning for students not to attend an event to be due to the fact that they don’t have a way to get there. For the festival, transportation was provided for students, but there was also an option to drive yourself to the farm.
“Last year I lived in the dorms and I know what it’s like to not have a car here,” Merlino said. “I don’t want that to be a deterrent for people to not come because they have no way to get there.”
For the transportation provided, students met at the Student Center around 10:00 a.m. to ride together. After arriving, they were able to enjoy the festival for three hours before going back to campus. It wasn’t until the event ended that Merlino was able to determine how the students enjoyed the event.
According to Merlino, seeing students after the festival, they all seemed to really like the event. While some students were a little disappointed about not going apple picking, they still enjoyed their time at Pumpkin Village. For Merlino, this was a successful event and she hopes students had a good time.
“Mapleside was a great start to the fall months. I think students should definitely go back and experience Mapleside again with friends and family,” Merlino said. “You can never have too much apple cider.”