I can't believe how fast this year has flown by, but the fall season is upon us and there are plenty of ways to celebrate in Hendricks County. One of my all-time favorite activities to usher in the season is just around the corner.

Beasley's Orchard in Danville will bring the fun back again during its 31st Annual Heartland Apple Festival. If you're a local, you've surely heard about or experienced this fall tradition. If you're a visitor or have never heard about it, you must check this fantastic two-weekend event out on Oct. 7-8 and 14-15.

All things fall at Beasley's OrchardThe Heartland Apple Festival has become a tradition for my family. It boasts something for all of us, and it always comes when we are in dire need of some time together, outside, enjoying the simple things. School, sports and other activities may be back in full swing, but I'm always eager for a little break from the mundane.

You can read my post about last year's festival here, and get all the details about this year's event here.

New This Year

Beasley's has opened a u-pick section for the first time in its long history. So, now families can pair the fun of wandering a portion of their extensive orchard with all of the other activities, which just adds a whole new dimension to this wonderful event.

But the fun doesn't stop there. Beasley's also has added apple cannons to their ever-growing list of fun. Fire apples from air-compressed cannons and try to hit the target.

Here is my (short) list of more reasons to visit...

The Corn Maze and HayridesBeasley Hay Mountain

Sometimes we just need a time and a place to take it all in and enjoy the season. Beasley's corn maze and hayrides are a perfect way to do just that. This year's massive corn maze theme is Minions.

Last year, our family navigated the maze once at the Heartland Apple Festival, and again during their Dog Daze at the Maze festival. I couldn't help but think back to years when we pushed a stroller through the maze or had tiny tots who scoured the land for muddy puddles to walk through with no interest in reaching the finish point of the maze.

Now, we have teenagers who argue about which direction the clues are indicating, but somehow find the end in record time. It really doesn't matter what phase of life your family is in, the enormous corn maze at Beasley's is a fun tradition for all.

Side note... take a minute to look at the photo gallery, inside the market, of past corn maze designs at Beasley's. It's pretty amazing.

Last year, we visited during both weekends of the festival and picked the hottest day to take a hayride out to the U-pick pumpkin patch. Our boys probably would have preferred to stay in the Barnyard Bonanza to shoot hoops, but they jumped up on the hay and posed for pictures just as my heart had hoped.

Once the tractor started moving, however, their faces revealed what I really hoped for -- simple joy. We found the perfect, albeit heavy, pumpkin. We were all grateful for the hayride back to the barn.The gorgeous, fresh market inside a Civil War-eran barn at Beasley's Orchard awaits.

The Barn Market and Craft Vendors

Beasley's Orchard boosts a beautiful, well-preserved barn that serves as their market for the whole season, not just the festival. I love walking the market and shopping the host of local items such as teas, decor, pantry items, gourmet foods and of course, their fresh produce. Additionally, this is the perfect time to get all those fall staples: mini pumpkins, mums and Indian corn. You'll be itching to set your Thanksgiving table.

Outside, stroll the outdoor craft vendor market for a little bit of everything. And it's all good. Last year, I left with specialty treats, bandannas for the dogs and homemade body butter. 

All the Food

Naturally, folks come for the eats. It's an orchard, after all. Our oldest makes his way straight to the counter at the back of the barn to purchase their award-winning cider. For him, it's usually a cider slushie for now and a gallon of cider for later. Whether you prefer it hot or cold, Beasley's cider is simply the best.

You'll want to leave room for lunch or dinner, too, as the food vendors at the Heartland Apple Festival don't mess around. Burgers, tenderloins and fried biscuits with apple butter are personal favorites, but there is something for everyone.

Hay Mountain, Barnyard Bonanza and Live EntertainmentBarnyard Bonanza at Beasley's Orchard

I meant it when I said that this festival offers fun for the whole family. Year after year, I send my kids up the hay mountain - a big stack of hay bales... yep, simple pleasures - to pose for a picture. I love looking back at these from over the years. That mountain sure looks smaller these days. Still, it's fun for all the kiddies to climb and play.

Barnyard Bonanza is an activity area full of fun for all ages. You'll find a giant jumping pillow - sure to tire out kids of all ages, and their parents, a spider climbing rope web, a corn crib for digging similar to a sandbox, only way cooler and a row of ball games - pitch baseballs, spin a spiral in the football throw or shoot some hoops.

In the background, you'll hear live music and entertainment coming from their center stage. You'll want to venture closer for the the puppet and magic shows.

What else can I say? This festival is simply awesome, mostly because of its simplicity. Easy to get to, easy to find something for everyone all while making memories with the ones you love.

Usher in the change of season with one of my family's favorite hosts, Beasley's Orchard, 2304 E. Main St., Danville, and make the Heartland Apple Festival a new fall tradition for your family.