The sounds of delighted children intermixed with the aroma of Dutch oven crisp and the smell of fresh air at Camas Camp-n-Ranch Saturday.
For the fifth year in a row, the ranch offered hayrides, horse rides, pumpkin bowling, crafts, a forest walk, homemade apple cider, dutch oven apple crisp and other events to celebrate the Halloween season.
“I love looking over the crowd and seeing happy faces,” said owner Tina Goodnight. “It is a place for families, and kids of all ages.”
She added that people come for so many reasons, including family fun and a chance to experience farm life with their children or grandchildren.
“Attendees enjoy many aspects of their visits to the ranch,” she said. “Most newcomers stop at the entrance, sigh and say, ‘It feels so peaceful here.’ I am always personally thrilled at that, and still surprised, every time, by those comments.”
Several eager children lined up to ride horses Saturday, despite the mud and muck. The sun decided to make an appearance just as the rides began, prompting Goodnight to say, “Thanks for coming out here and bringing the sun.”
“Kids love horses and we have 10 of them,” she said. “They are accessible here in a way they aren’t most other places. We also have forest trails that are mostly natural, and there is history here that I work hard to preserve. This is a youth ranch, but youth or all ages are encouraged to come, enjoy, play and learn.”
Events, such as the Spooky Harvest and summer camps, are often planned up to a year in advance. Camas Camp-n-Ranch is also a working 4-H farm.
“As a youth ranch, there are imperfections, but these are used as educational tools to better the youth’s agricultural experience,” Goodnight said. “Our multi-generational family supports the activities of the 4-H group including some preparation of the site. The group provides youth leadership and workers to prepare the components of the event. The families are the staff which promotes the community-involvement part of 4-H. It is a training ground for the youth, helping them to overcome barriers in their socialization skills.”
Youth could be seen volunteering at all the different activities, along with Goodnight and several members of her family.
Kathleen and Trey Goodwin brought their 2-year-old son, Jack, to the event. It was the first time they visited the ranch.
“It’s great,” Kathleen said. “He got his first horse ride.”
“I want a hayride,” Jack chimed in.
Added Trey, “This is perfect kind of day to do this. I really enjoyed walking back through the trails.”
Seven-year-old Vani Gupta favored the horseback riding.
“I like how the horse does his own thing; it’s funny,” she said.
Seeing everyone, from young to old, smiling and having a good time puts a smile on Goodnight’s face.
“I see every event here as a marketing tool, getting folks out to the ranch, seeing them enjoy themselves and interacting in a natural way within their own families,” she said. “All of that ‘markets’ the wonderfulness of our ranch to the public. I love to mix with the attendees as much as possible and then am personally thrilled to see them in the community or at other events and activities later.”