Trevion Knox, 7, and his mother, Alecia James, 29, had just stepped into the center of the Burden Center’s corn maze when Trevion spotted the straw mountain and immediately began climbing.
In just a few seconds, the agile boy reached the top and posed with confidence at the flagpole planted at the summit. He was soon joined by dozens of other children on top of the 15 foot-high heap of large, round bales as parents down below snapped photos with their cellphones.
“This is a lot of fun,” Knox exclaimed, a sentiment echoed by hundreds, if not thousands, of other children, who attended the 17th annual Harvest Days and second annual Scarecrow Festival celebration with parents and grandparents on Saturday.
“We had over 5,000 people attend last year and we expect the same kind of crowd today,” said David Floyd, the Rural Life Museum’s director. A clear blue sky and an LSU football game at Auburn were both good indicators attendance would be high, he said.
The 430-acre campus was dotted with canvas tents inhabited by nearly 100 Civil War re-enactors, dressed in blue and gray and accompanied by wives and children, also in period dress. In the morning, the soldiers performed artillery, infantry and cavalry drills. In the afternoon, they re-enacted the 1862 Battle of Baton Rouge in a nearby field.
Under some shade trees two dozen artisans displayed their works, while volunteers, many dressed in period costumes, performed historically autumnal tasks such as splitting shingles, boiling cane juice down into syrup, shucking and shelling corn, dipping candles and sawing square planks from round logs with hand-held saws.
Visitors were greeted by “Buck,” a massive, long-horned “Piney Woods” ox who lives on the campus, and children crowded near his split-rail pasture to scratch his long, brown face. When Buck would bellow, some children laughed, others were terrified and started to cry.
“I like him,” said Matthew Bordelon, 6, who came down from St. Francisville with his grandmother, Donna Metz, and several other women and children.
Over in a grove of cypress trees, Nicholas Kochergin, 13, was using a small adz to chip the inside of an ancient cypress log into a dugout pirogue with the assistance of boatbuilders Jules Lambert and Keith Felder.
Nadia Moses, 35, was holding her son, Caidyn, 18 months, high enough to see what Kochergin was doing when the small boy picked out an aromatic chip and held onto it.
“We’ve never been here before, so I wanted to expose him to the culture and history on display,” Moses said. “As a single mother who also works, I wanted to get out in the outdoors, too. It is so beautiful today.”
Jeff Kuehny, Burden Research Center director, dressed in bib overalls and a straw hat, was watching the kids climb the straw mountain. The 10-acre maze was designed by LSU students, he said, who then used a GPS system to plant the rows and cut the paths to spell the words, if seen from the air, “Get corn.”
At the other end of the maze, children shot water balloons from giant slingshots and tried to hit an array of plywood ghosts, goblins and witches. Nearby, the smaller children threw beanbags at a cut-out haunted house.
Claire Fontenot, a volunteer and 76 -year-old retired nurse, said she was having the time of her life encouraging the children with their throws.
“I’m just having fun with the children and watching the grown-ups,” Fontenot said. “They get the biggest kick out of the kids. And so do I.”