Despite it’s name, Haystackular isn’t just about hay.
That’s what event organizer Tonya Westerkom would tell you about the program she’s helped run since it started three years ago.
Originally put on to help raise money for the Parent Teacher Organization, the fall festival is now run by S.S. Dixon Primary School and helps raise money for the school.
The event runs during the entire month of October, and this year, there are more things for children to enjoy.
“We have the hay slide, and that’s a work in progress,” Westerkom said.
Also new this year is the rope maze.
This year, the school purchased over 4,000 bales of hay to build the main maze and 1,000 bales more to build the mini maze and the hay slide.
Last year, Haystackular brought out Santa Rosa County Jail inmates to build the maze, and Westerkom said it wasn’t any different this year.
“They actually created the maze to be shaped like a horse head,” Westerkom said. “A Santa Rosa County officer actually designed the horse head idea.”
Westerkom said that the event itself takes about three months to plan and build.
Throughout the month of October over 800 children from local schools, including children from Escambia County schools will visit the maze on field trips.
“They do math activities, geocaching, and the fifth graders do compass exercises,” Westerkom said. “We try to tie in math and science into the field trips.
“It satisfies the common core that schools are required to use now.”
And after the event is over, the school doesn’t chuck the hay out to the side of the road.
“We try to recycle it,” Westerkom said.
Last year, a father of one of the children at S.S. Dixon Primary reused a lot of the corn from the corn crawl to feed deer during deer hunting season. The hay, Westerkom said is usually sold to farmers and locals.
“That’s our biggest purchase is the hay, so we try to resell it,” Westerkom said.
The event organizer said that over the past two years, the event was able to raise about $50,000 to put towards projects at S.S. Dixon Primary School. And that money is raised thanks to the estimated 7,000 people that come to the event each year.