12/8/2012 7:00 AM
By Laurie Savage Maryland Correspondent
WHITEFORD, Md. — Visitors can take a ride on a train or stop by to visit Santa in his workshop while picking out that perfect Christmas tree this season at Applewood Farm.
"You can always get a tree or bring the kids out and have a nice day at the farm," said Bryce Adelhardt, who took over operations on the 100-acre farm along the Mason-Dixon Line when his parents, Brian and Pat, retired.
He has extended not only the fall season but also the Christmas season by adding special agritourism activities to his farm's offerings.
According to the farm website, "Christmas at Applewood is for those folks who wish to experience and create a family memory. We are much more than a Christmas tree farm."
Step into the 1773 log barn, which has been transformed into a Santa's workshop. Twinkling lights overhead and several train vignettes make the farm a true winter wonderland. One train circles overhead while children line up to visit Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Featured during the winter season are a petting zoo, wagon rides, a kiddy maze, lawn bowling, a playground complete with pedal tractors, holiday decorations and an interesting version of ring toss using reindeer antlers attached to posts.
The antler toss and a display of reindeer antlers on the barn wall are testament to the herd of reindeer the family once raised year-round on their land in Pennsylvania to put on display at Applewood.
"Years ago we had reindeer. We might bring them back," Adelhardt said.
A Southdown sheep, miniature horse and a miniature Sicilian burro call the farm and petting zoo home now.
The centerpiece of the operation is the small train that winds along a 3/4-mile track through the farm's lower pasture. The red and green train has been part of the farm for 10 years.
The Applewood Express is a historically accurate replica of an 1865 vintage wood-burning steam locomotive, the website said. The train pulls two covered coaches and has the capacity for 42 passengers. There is a small fee for riders 3 years of age and over.
An expanded light show, “Applewood Farm Illuminations — Lights! Sparkle! Memories!” is planned for the first time this year during weekend evenings, the farm operator said. In the past, the train traveled through lights, but Applewood will welcome visitors with a new drive-through light show during the second half of December.
"The barn will be open during the light show," he said.
And what would a winter wonderland be without Christmas trees?
The farm has grown Christmas trees for 25 years and now has a limited selection of harder-to-find 10- to 20-foot-tall, cut-your-own blue and white spruce and white pine. Also available are fresh, pre-cut 7- to 9-foot Fraser and Douglas fir trees at the barn. All trees sold on the farm come from Harford County.
The farm has had a fall pumpkin season for 15 years. Fall activities include a corn maze, hay rides, pumpkin picking, petting zoo, barn activities, gift shop and cider and apple sales.
In addition to welcoming 2,500 people per weekend through the fall and slightly fewer during the colder winter months, Adelhardt also grows corn and soybeans and holds down a full-time job during the week. He hopes the farm operations will continue with his 7-year-old son.
"We are going to do it as long as we can do it," he said.
The farm's normal operations are open for the winter holiday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 16. Adelhardt advises visitors to call or check the website to be sure the farm is open the weekend before Christmas.
Admission to the farm's regular activities is free. The farm is also open by appointment only for school tours and private parties.
“Applewood Farm Illuminations — Lights! Sparkle! Memories!” runs Dec. 15 to 30 from 5 to 8 p.m. on weekends. Visitors should also call or visit the website to confirm dates, times and admission for the light show.
Applewood Farm LLC, is located at 4435 Prospect Road, Whiteford. For more information, call 443-417-6329 or 410-836-1140, e-mail applewoodfarm<\@>earthlink.net or visit www.applewoodfarm.org.