After being closed for almost a year, Maymont Farm reopens Sunday with a family-friendly festival during which guests can explore the renovated barn, check out the new classroom building and, yes, of course, feed the hungry animals once again.
The project cost roughly $3 million and was funded by the Spirit of Generosity capital campaign.
“This has been such a special place for so many people in the community for over 90 years,” said Parke Richeson, Maymont’s executive director. “We want each and every guest to have an extraordinary experience at Maymont. ... That’s why we renovated the farm.”
If you’ve been eager to get a sneak peek at the changes, here’s a breakdown of what you’ll find:
The barn, originally built in 1983, has been gutted and completely overhauled with all new wood, new wiring and new stalls, except for the ceiling. The barn has new floors and a new drainage system.
A new control panel was installed to allow for quick control of heat, light and a fan in every stall.
But the biggest change is that people can get closer to the animals when they’re in the barn.
Before the renovation, a fence separated the barn enclosures from the guests. If you were standing in front of a stall, you couldn’t reach or touch the animals.
But now, that fence is gone.
The door of each stall is grated, and open spaces allow guests to see the animals and, if willing, touch them.
“You can put your hand right up to the enclosure and touch the animals or feed them,” said Carla Murray, a Maymont spokeswoman. “We wanted to offer our guests more interaction with the animals.”
It also will be easier for the animals to move around, both inside and outside the barn. Before, animals had to be let in or out of the barn. But now, the renovation offers more choices. For instance, if the weather is warm, animals on their own can go inside the barn where it’s shady and have fans blowing on them. There are also more spaces for the animals, with extra paddocks added to the back of the barn.
Food vending machines
Forget about carrying around quarters for the old coin-operated machines in order to get food for the animals.
New feeding machines will take bills or credit cards, but no coins. Animal food can be purchased in $1, $3, $5 and $10 increments. The new minimum will be 1.6 ounces of food for $1, which is about the same price with the coin-operated machines.
The new vending machines aren’t expected to be working yet at Sunday’s grand reopening celebration, but animal food will be sold individually by hand.
Say goodbye to the little plastic hand sanitizers that used to be attached to a pole near the barn.
Now kids (and adults) can line up at a brand-new hand-washing station with faucets and a trough to thoroughly clean their hands after feeding the animals.
The farm is also getting some new animals this spring.
Maymont Farm will welcome new blackface sheep from Busch Gardens near Williamsburg. Be sure to notice the horns on both the male and the female sheep.
The pigs have been off-site during the renovation and will be coming back, a little leaner to boot.
The reopening will feature several familiar animals, including Percy the donkey and the Maymont goats.
Two female goats are pregnant, and the staff is eagerly anticipating babies this spring.
But don’t expect to see any peacocks.
According to Murray, peacocks haven’t been on the grounds at Maymont in a few years. Visitors used to be able to spot them roaming around the barn, but, sadly, there are no more.
But you can say hello to Artie and Solo, the newly added retired racehorses in the paddock below the farm. Solo is the one with the white “socks.”
Perhaps most noticeable among the changes is the new classroom building.
Located just beneath the barn, the building is quite striking, with a red roof to match the barn and large windows. The classrooms feature soaring, pitched ceilings and dormers that let in lots of light.
The two 24-by-30-foot classrooms in the building will be used for birthday parties and educational events, allowing Maymont to double its party and class offerings. The classrooms also have bathroom facilities attached.
Out front, a nature-themed play area will be installed for kids.
Although the play area might not be ready for the reopening festival, when it is installed, kids can jump on logs, hop across rocks and engage in other nature-themed play.
The former classroom area located just off the barn is being turned into an office.
The restrooms have been expanded and improved.
Before the renovation, the restrooms could be described at best as “rustic.”
Now the restrooms have been upgraded with a gray tile floor, white sinks, new light fixtures, wall tile and, perhaps best of all, additional stalls. Both the women’s room and men’s room have five stalls each and a baby-changing station. There is also a family restroom. The restrooms are also ADA-compliant and can accommodate wheelchairs.
“We’re paying a lot of attention to what families need,” Murray said.
The parking lot at the farm entrance was one of the most popular places to park and would fill up quickly.
Seventy spots have been added to the farm’s parking lot, increasing the number of parking spaces to 120.
Rain garden/bio-retention area
A rain garden and bio-retention area has been added just off the parking lot, near the Follow the Leader sculpture.
The goal is to capture any runoff between the parking lot and the garden, to make for cleaner water going into the James. The area also will serve as a working example of how to create a rain garden at home.
Maymont hosts over half a million visitors per year, and the estate continues to offer free admission to the public.
“The farm reopening is definitely one of the most highly anticipated events to happen at Maymont for quite a while,” Richeson said. After receiving many emails, letters, posts on social media and being told in person how much the farm has been missed, “we can’t wait to welcome everyone back.”