History, Zombies & Family Fun in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains.
Each fall, Kyker Farms in Sevierville, Tennessee, plows a maze into its corn field and invites visitors to come get “Kornfused.” The chance to navigate your way through cornstalks is just one among many reasons to visit the fertile farm.
When you step onto Kyker Farms, you’re standing on land that’s been in one family since 1808, when a land grant was signed by John Sevier. Father and son team Randy Kyker (eighth generation) and Drew (ninth generation) currently run the farm. “Every piece of the original property is still together,” says Randy. “It’s kind of a rare thing that the original 174 acres have stayed together.” The family has even added additional acreage over the years.
Nestled between the French Broad River and the Smoky Mountains, Kyker Farms is a Tennessee Century Farm, with 212 years of continuous agricultural production. The Tennessee Century Farms program recognizes farms owned by the same family for at least 100 years. About 1,400 farms have been certified.
The Kyker family has raised various things on the land over the years. Now the primary focus is beef cattle, though the corn fields, pumpkin patch, and other added attractions—all designed and crafted by the Kyker family—are what lures visitors each fall from late September through October.
Fun for the 2020 fall season includes:
Corn Mazes are twisty discovery zones. In 2020, four different mazes are carved into the corn fields, each with a different theme and challenge: a scavenger hunt, farm fact-finding mission, big circular pattern, and a kid-friendly route. “My son designs the corn mazes and we cut them ourselves,” says Randy. “We don’t do it with GPS, we do it the old-fashioned way. Everything is original. There are three large mazes and a Tater Tot trail for little kids that’s separate from everything else and easy to do with little noise makers and spots to entertain them. We try to do something for everybody, adults and kids.” This year, the biggest maze serves up some Kyker Farms’ history. “We wanted to do something a little different, so we did more family history, childhood memories in there,” says Randy. “It’s still a scavenger hunt, with a code letter at each site and when you get through and put them all together it spells out a little theme.” While he says that “the circle maze has no rhyme or reason,” the farm maze is a bit educational, showcasing the life cycle of a pumpkin patch.
Hayrides offer a leisurely, convivial, half-hour tour of Kyker Farms including a stop at the pumpkin patch. “We don’t rush!” promises Randy. Three wagons run the route, to help minimize wait times since the hayrides are a perennial favorite activity among visitors. “Bring your camera,” Randy recommends. “It’s family time to make memories—we’re all about family here!” Oftentimes, families bring multiple generations along for the ride.
Pumpkin Patch visits offer abundant photo ops in beautiful fields as well as the opportunity to harvest your own pick from Kyker Farms’ seasonal crop. Hayrides include a stop at the main patch, though multiple pumpkin patches are planted around the farm including the one specifically for weekend visitors, one reserved for school groups, a ‘feeder patch’ down by the river where cooler temps help buds set, and a special little ‘bumpkin patch’ where mini pumpkins are grown especially for children age two and younger. Seeing pumpkins on the vine is “a taste of what a farm is,” says Randy. “I grew up following my granddaddy around the farm, so this is everyday business to me I can take for granted. But some kids have no idea, so we make it as close to a farm experience as we can.”
Kyker’s Kritter and Educational Barn houses animals that you can pet and feed, including sheep, goats, chickens, and calves. Another section of the barn is devoted to farm history with items from generations past on display plus two videos playing on TVs. “One video gives a history of Tennessee land grants and another is ‘a year at Kyker Farms’,” says Randy. “Most people see us in the fall and don’t know what goes on the rest of the year, so we have video of us planting crops, working cattle, and so on.”
Zombie Blasterz cranks up the scare factor as the sun sets on Kyker Farms and the fields and hayrides are staged for thrilling after-dark adventures. On this interactive paintball ride through the Dead Woods, ride a wagon with a mounted paintball gun and you’ll have 100 rounds to blast zombies along the way. “I’m currently the longest-running paintball ride,” says Randy. “I forget how many years we’ve been doing it!” There’s never a dull moment and lots to shoot at, with zombies that are live actors as well as animatronics. (Typically, there’s also a haunted trail, but it’s paused this year due to the coronavirus pandemic; the Kykers hope to offer it again next year.)
Much More! Kyker Farms offers oodles of ways to play and have fun in the great outdoors each fall, many of them homemade. Among the options are tunnel slides, a straw crawl, corn tub, swings, corn cob swing, corn hole, Kyker’s Korn Hopper (a bouncing pillow), Bee Line (zip), Trike Track, bonfire sites, bouncy balls, tether balls, duck races, rocking horses, and seesaws. Concessions and bathrooms are available.
All of the fall activities are included in the admission. “We try to keep it simple!” says Randy. Group rates are available and it is possible to reserve private space for your group around one of the fire pits. Two areas on the farm are specifically for birthday parties.
Fall is spectacular, but visitors are welcome to Kyker Farms throughout the year. “We sell meat out of the main barn all year,” says Randy. “Sometimes we’ll give tours to school and other special groups. But, generally, we’re busy farming!”
For more information about cabin and cottage rentals, contact the Sevierville, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce at 1-888-766-5948 or VisitSevierville.com.