Tag Archives: Farm

Wow Your Toddler With A Trip To The Farm

If you are looking for something to do with your toddler that doesn’t involve a long drive, is free (or inexpensive—ok cheap!) and big on a wow factor for the little ones, Frying Pan Farm Park is a winner for families.

As a working parent and a member of the Park Authority Board I know that free time with your little ones is precious.  Like most families, my husband and I try to make the most of our weekends with our two-year-old son.  We have made Frying Pan a once a month “go-to” destination for our family since our little guy was just a few months old.

While the Park Authority has many outstanding facilities throughout Fairfax County, I think Frying Pan is one of the top destinations for families with young children.  In my opinion, a visit to Frying Pan is perfect for a toddler’s schedule (as a new mom I quickly learned that the daytime window to get out is limited to the time they wake up in the morning until lunchtime which is generally followed by a nap).  As such, the morning hours are perfect for a visit to the farm because the animals are very active.  You on the other hand may need your cup of coffee to stay awake!

I’ve found that springtime at Frying Pan is very special and the farm is full of surprises to delight little ones.  New baby animals are born nearly every month with February through May having the most deliveries.  On a recent visit we were able to see and photograph lambs, piglets and a calf.  Seeing these animals up close never fails to delight and interest our little boy.  Not only does he get to see these very social animals up close, but he hears the sounds they make.  Children learn more about the sights and (yes, smells) of the farm each time they visit.  Since the animals are cared for and handled by our amazing staff and dedicated “Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park” volunteers regularly, the animals are gentle and friendly to all.  Simply put, getting close to the animals brings the farm to life for the youngsters who visit.

This working farm is home to cows, sheep, pigs, rabbits, goats, a horse, ducks, turkeys and even peacocks!  Your little farmer-in-training can even test out the miniature stationary tractors.  The park is a year-round destination.  During warmer months you can enjoy wagon rides and an old-fashioned carousel.  When it’s really cold outside you can drop-in at the visitor center to learn about the history of the farm.  You even have the chance for a lesson in milking a cow at 4 p.m.  When it’s warm, little ones can watch the farmer milk a real cow in the barn.

If your little farmer is especially energetic after viewing the animals, take him or her to the playground down by the Country Store and carousel.  There are two spaces for play, one for toddlers and another for older children.  There are also benches for grownups to sit back and relax.

We enjoy our frequent visits to Frying Pan.  It has become a special part of our lives and in the life of our son.  I hope that you will make it a special part of your life as well!

Here are some of my Mommy DO’s and DON’Ts for visiting Frying Pan with your toddler or little one:

  • DON’T stress about parking.  There’s plenty of parking that’s close to the action (unless there’s a big special event).  No need to stress about long walks and you don’t have to haul a diaper bag along because the car is never far away.
  • DO bring rain boots for lots of puddle splashing (especially after rain or snow).  Puddles are half the fun!
  • DO bring an extra jacket (sometimes it gets windy on the farm and the temperatures can feel cooler).
  • DO bring a change of clothes.  There are lots of opportunities for kids to get dirty!
  • DO take a picture of your little one on the mini tractors!
  • DO take photos of the animals.  These are a great teaching tool for your kids when you get home.
  • DO bring a snack (there are lots of picnic tables and places to sit, have a snack, and talk about the animals with your children).
  • DO bring hand-sanitizer (as if you don’t have 12 bottles stashed in your bag already!)  It’s always good for cleaning up afterward.  If you forget, there are hand-washing stations throughout the park.
  • DO try the carousel or the wagon rides when they are operating.  They are LOADS of fun!
  • DO visit the country store.  After seeing the chickens you can swing by and pick up some farm fresh eggs and make a tasty omelet for dinner or breakfast the next day!

For more information about Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, visit their website.

By: Kala Quintana, Fairfax County Park Authority Board Member, At-large

Frying Pan Celebrates 15 Years of Acoustic Jams

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Back in 1998, after a tree fell onto her Kidwell farmhouse office, Frying Pan Farm Park Historian Yvonne Johnson (now park supervisor) was working in a temporary office in a construction trailer. One day Debbie Billodeaux, a woman with a Louisiana accent and a little dog named Missy, knocked on the trailer door with an idea to allow musicians to gather and play on the front porch of the new Country Store. Johnson loved the Acoustic Jam idea and thought the sessions might draw a handful of people; however, in less than a year, 20 to 40 people were showing up to play at each jam.

Since then, visitors have enjoyed Acoustic Jams every month, as friends come together in a warm, friendly setting to play harmonies on string instruments such as guitars, banjos, mandolins, dobros, fiddles and bass. According to Johnson, a couple hundred visitors might see the musicians play on a nice day. “It was so gratifying to see the response from the visitors,” Johnson said.

Billodeaux’s dream of having a place for musicians to play and introduce music to new audiences is still going strong. The park celebrated its first “Jam-iversary” earlier this month, marking the fifteenth anniversary of the jam with cake, speeches, camaraderie, and, of course, music. Looking back, Johnson said, “Debbie came up with a great idea that improves visitors’ experiences and doesn’t cost the park anything. Over the years, the jams have touched the lives of thousands of people.”

Here is the history of the Acoustic Jam, in Debbie Billodeaux’s own words.

“The Acoustic Jam started out as a once-a-month jam on the third Sunday of each month. I was inspired to start the jam when I saw the Country Store being opened up at the park in the spring/summer of that year. I thought this would be a perfect place to jam and, I must say, very convenient for me as I live close by.  I liked jams because I could play with others, learn new songs, and the flexibility of a jam worked well with my busy schedule. At the time I was going to the CABOMA jam (Capitol Area Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association) in Arlington. Yvonne and I talked about how a jam would work and also be reflective of how people historically enjoyed music in a rural farming community. We intentionally set the Frying Pan jam up on the third Sunday so it would not interfere with the CABOMA jam in Arlington (second and fourth Sundays).

“The first jam was attended by less than 10 people, but it grew steadily.  It was usually bigger in the summer when people can be outside.  The early jams were at the Country Store, which is near the playground, and it has always been interesting to see how kids react to live music and seeing a variety of instruments close-up. In the early years, my guitar teacher at Chantilly Music, Bill Suter, would often suggest that his students get out and play with other people. He would tell them about the jam and a dozen or more people came from his referral. I often send out an email reminder to those at the jam reminding them of the jam date and also telling them about other events and jams in the area.  Jim Norman is a local resident and dobro and bass player who attends the jam, and he pushed for us to increase it to twice a month. In March 2002 we began holding jams twice a month.

“The park staff typically will ask if there are a couple of people that can play music at the Farm Harvest Day or an event for the Friends group, and so we typically do that once or twice a year. Several years the jam has been the closing act on the performance stage at the 4-H Fair. Sometimes a picture of those performances showed up in a newspaper. The Frying Pan Jam was featured once as the cover story on the Herndon Connection. Through the years we have had a couple of people that show up to listen on a regular basis.  Margaret and Ben Peck are in that group and I have a good picture of them sitting on the porch one sunny afternoon. There was another older lady who came regularly often requesting certain songs.  She grew up in West Virginia and had heard many early country legends sing as a child.  She was a music fan and she would have her husband drive her over. When he was too old to drive, they would have friends bring them. I do not know her name, but I took a picture of her and a friend and gave her a copy.

“We have had a couple of professional musicians stop by. It is a real treat for us.  We have quite a few people that are in now or have been in regional bands. We have had a number of people that have met others at the jam and then formed small bands. We also have a lot of beginners so there is usually a big mix of experience at the jam.”

Acoustic Jams are held semi-monthly at Frying Pan Farm Park on the first and third Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.

Written by Matthew Kaiser, Fairfax County Park Authority deputy public information officer, and Debbie Billodeaux, volunteer and park neighbor.