When Cindy Stubbs retired from veterinary medicine in 2008, all she initially wanted to do was “play in the dirt.”
That desire quickly grew into what is now Firefly Farm in Hillsborough, and now Stubbs is ready to share her newest project – The Witch’s Haunted Barn – with the community.
Having grown up on a farm in the North Carolina mountains, Stubbs had a love for the land instilled in her at an early age. After retiring, she and her husband Paul purchased Firefly Farm and began a small vegetable farming operation. Stubbs soon found her niche with new projects like the Witch’s Haunted Barn, which will open each weekend in October beginning Oct. 3.
The Haunted Barn started as a private party, but Stubbs decided to open it up to the public last year. She only opened the barn for a few days then, but this year has decided to keep the attraction available all throughout October.
“I figured this year, lets go bigger because people need a safe but fun way to have fun on Halloween. Everything I’ve done with this has been geared around children, especially elementary-age kids,” she said. “I want them to be able to get candy and be safe.”
Barn visits are timed sessions, with tickets available online for $15 per family groups. Families walk through the haunted barn and experience what Stubbs characterized as a “whimsical look at Halloween,” with no live actors jumping out at you or other such scares.
“We’ve got the usual actors you would expect. We’ve got a mad doctor, we’ve got ghosts and skeletons and other things like that, but we make little storylines out of it,” Stubbs said. “There are lots of details that the adults can enjoy, and then the kids will just enjoy all the little bits of craziness we have going on.
At the end of the barn walkthrough, kids can pick up a bag of candy before they go on to check out other parts of the farm, including animals like horses, chickens and miniature donkeys. The Haunted Barn has fit in nicely with the other parts of Firefly Farm, the largest of which is a pick-your-own flower garden which Stubbs has operated for several years. While Stubbs started out selling produce at her local farmer’s market, those two attractions have combined to create what she sees as the farm’s real niche going forward.
“To start with it was really aimed at the kids in the neighborhood, and now I’ve been wanting to share it more,” she said. “In a rural setting there’s really not a lot of good places to go trick-or-treating. If you life in a suburb there’s hordes of kids and lots of places you can go, but out in the country I remember growing up and not having a lot of good places to go.”
The Haunted Barn in particular had its beginnings in one of Stubbs’ annual traditions.
“It started when my kids were in elementary school. I would dress up as the witch, and I mean full green face, and I would go into the elementary schools and read to my children’s classes, I’d read Halloween stories,” she said. “It was so much fun, and both kids and adults can still enjoy the fun of it.”
Even with her kids now a bit too old to enjoy having their mother visit class in full witch regalia, Stubbs still goes back to the same teachers she worked with years ago to read to their new classes.
“It’s all just about finding a way to bring joy to people and have fun doing it,” she said.
That could just as easily describe the entirety of Firefly Farm. With the success of her you-pick flowers and features in several media outlets, Stubbs decided this year was the time to open up the farm to the world.
The barn will be open each Saturday in October from 1 to 5 p.m. at 4911 Hunt Road in Hillsborough. Space is limited, so reserve your tickets online at www.fireflyfarmnc.com.