The Boulder Creek Ranch Harvest Festival is officially back on.
"We understand the issues we had last year, this year, we were surprised," said organizer Shelley Keller. "We've bettered our communication (with the city of Hesperia) in the last week and a half."
A sidewalk allowing wheelchair access from the parking lot to the heart of the ranch is being added, and gravel has been added to the road leading in, in response to requests from the city.
The ranch staff will also be doing some things differently for their own sake.
"I think it was amazingly organized for our first year," said Keller.
But this year, staffers won't be roaming from station to station, but instead will have various stations around the ranch and have a lot more mastery of the various activities they're overseeing, according to her brother, Jason Hasty.
All the hassles involved in the event — which takes about five months of planning each year — is worth it, said Keller.
"We would bring in a lot more revenue if we had just booked a wedding every Friday, Saturday and Sunday," she said. But the festival was worth it, she said: "I was blown away. I expected trash to be thrown everywhere and to be picking up after them. But it was like we invited them" personally.
"I'm here for a lot of events," said Hasty, "and we hear a lot of positive feedback" about last year's festival.
In addition to praise for the ranch's beauty, they said the family friendly aspect of last year's festival generated much of the praise from visitors.
"This is all about the kids for us," said Keller. "Here, you actually get to enjoy yourself as well."
Well, it's not all about the kids: The festival also raises money for a good cause.
Last year's festival raised funds for Hasty family friend Misty Brown's kidney and liver treatment at the Wichita-based Hansa Center.
"It was a very fulfilling thing to do," said Keller. "A lot of hard work, but worth it."
This year, there's another charity being benefited: Nurturing Hope, which benefits overseas orphanages, especially in Africa, teaching its residents life skills including farming. Funds will be raised through the chili tasting kits for visitors, entry fees for contestants, sponsorships by local businesses and auctions during the festival.
The chili cook-off on Oct. 15, is just one of a series of rotating weekend events taking place at the Harvest Festival:
• Ten local bands will compete over three weekends — on Oct. 16, 23 and 30 — for $700 in cash prizes. Bands will play from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on competition nights.
• Children are invited to participate in the Huck Finn Fish-Off on Oct. 22 and 23 from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrants pay $5 for the 50-minute rental of a bamboo pole and bait (no outside poles, tackle or bait are allowed). The biggest catch of the day wins $50.
• Boulder Creek Ranch will host trick-or-treating on Oct. 29 and 30, from noon to 4 p.m. Costumes are required, but no scary costumes are allowed. A costume contest will be held from noon to 4:30 p.m., with a winner announced at 6 p.m. The best costume will win a $50 cash prize.
Admission to the Harvest Festival is free, although there is a $5 parking fee on weekends. Activities are paid for with $1 tickets, with most activities requiring two tickets to participate. On Monday through Thursday, a $10 wristband allows children unlimited access to the hayrides, bounce house, playground and petting zoo.
Boulder Creek Ranch is located at 19099 Lemon Street in Hesperia. For more information about the Harvest Festival, visit BoulderCreekRanch.org/harvest-festival.html or call (760) 244-0096.
Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.