Our guide warns us to keep our eyes open as the hayride stops. I breathe in through my mask, waiting.
Suddenly, out of the trees, three zombies stumble towards us. I pull the trigger and the zombies stumble backwards, disappearing into the dark once again.
This isn’t the zombie apocalypse though. This is the ZombieFarm Paintball Hayride at the Smith Family Ranch, and I’ve just fired several paintballs at costumed actors.
“It got started in 2012 when everybody was going about the big zombie craze, you know, and everybody’s a zombie and everything,” Dakota Smith said. “So we came up with an idea to shoot ‘em with paint balls.”
Dakota is a member of the Smith family, which puts on the hayride, as well as the Cornfusion Crop Maze and Fall Festival. He said that the ZombieFarm Paintball Hayride was a family effort, but that he and his brother had a lot to do with it.
“We’re into the zombie thing a little bit more,” he said.
They really are. The hayride rumbled past three different stations where zombie hunters like myself are allowed to shoot for around a minute before the hayride takes off again.
“There’s nowhere else local that we know of that does this,” Dakota said.
Being able to shoot at the zombies really got my heart pumping.
“You go to Universal or all those other places, and you just get scared and you don’t get to do anything back,” Dakota said. “Here you get to shoot them with paintball guns and they don’t get to shoot back. So, you get to even the odds here a little bit.”
At the beginning of the hayride I paid $30. After that I got a wristband that gave me a paintball gun with around 200 rounds to fire at the zombies, which more than evened the odds.
I didn’t have to worry about the people playing the zombies though.
“The costumes are kind of difficult because they need to be padded enough to take the hits from the paintballs,” Dakota said.
Two of the zombies were Kirra Deeson and Haleigh Harrell.
“I think it’s kind of cool,” Kirra said. “See how much I can get hit without it hurting.”
It’s not just protective gear that the actors are wearing though.
“It’s a pretty sleek deal,” Dakota said, “We can uniform ‘em up to where they’re not just mummies.”
The zombies stayed a good distance from the hayride, reacting to all of the different hits from the paintball guns.
It’s all part of the safety aspect, both for the paintballers and the zombies.
“We gotta have ‘em safe,” Dakota said.
By the end of the ride I’d fired countless rounds of paintballs into the night, and downed at least one zombie. Not bad for a city girl.
“Just be ready for some fun. You don’t have to be experienced at all with a paintball gun. You don’t have to know anything about it or ever shot one before,” Dakota said. “Tall to small, anybody can come. You don’t get shot at, it’s not physical. You’ll just be standing on a trailer. Anybody’s welcome, and they can sure come and try it out. It’s pretty fun.”
The event runs Friday and Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. until the end of October, and make sure to check cornfusionmaze.com to make sure it hasn’t been rained out. But be careful: there are zombies lurking in the shadows.