RICHMOND, Va. - The sound of construction clanged and buzzed throughout the Maymont Farm and out over the rolling hills of the 100-acre estate, just days ahead of the much-anticipated grand reopening on Sunday, March 26.
Nick the goat was hamming it up; he scratched his head on a camera tripod before he tried to walk off with it. Oreo the pygmy goat was a bit standoffish, likely exhausted from an intense training session, in preparation to delights crowds with agility tricks. Percy the donkey -- a farm favorite -- was unapproachable due to construction.
The animals haven’t been indulged with heaps of fanfare and snacks since April 2016, when the farm closed for renovation, and the whole gang hasn’t been together, either – the pot-bellied pigs were moved off-site during construction. New to the party are the Scottish Blackface sheep from Busch Gardens.
The collective herd will dwell in a completely upgraded barn, now with more paddocks for more animals, which allows for more interaction with people and direct access to the outdoors to come and go on their own.
Signs of the $3 million project are evident everywhere; from the new construction and upgrades to feed machines that accept bills and credit cards (not on opening day, though) to hand washing stations and big, new bathrooms that are ADA-compliant. There is also about 36-percent more parking.
"It's all about the guest experience,” said Carla Murray, Maymont spokesperson.
The two classrooms are housed next to the barns in a new building that casts a striking outline on to the horizon. The large windows allow natural light to flood the classrooms and provide a southern view of the sprawling estate.
The expanded classrooms are for event programming and birthday party rental and have cubbies and bathroom facilities attached.
The farm is focusing on its stewardship as a neighbor of the James, and has added a rain garden and bio-retention area near the parking lot. Currently, it’s a cavernous pile adjacent to the “Follow the Leader" statue and close to the stunning Blue Atlas Cedar – a state champion honored for its size.
Once complete, it will help capture runoff and clean water headed for the James River, and hopefully educate visitors about the function of a home rain garden, Murray said.
The expanded vegetable garden area near the barn is also intended to teach visitors about the possibilities of home gardening, with the new addition of small raised beds for those wanting to learn about gardening with less square footage.
It’s another thoughtful part of the redesign still taking shape as the whole area hums with renovations and anticipation for the return of its guests.
Maymont, which is free and open to the public, receives about half a million guests annually.
Murray said there have been dozens of inquiries and comments ahead of the reopening – many saying the farm has been missed.
"We are excited to have everyone back," Murray said. "We will still be a work in progress. There are still a few things that have to happen after the reopening -- the rain garden, the replanting of the butterfly garden."
"But it's spring time and we are expecting baby goats and everybody wants to be back at Maymont this time of year and we are looking forward to it," she added.
On Sunday, March 26, from noon to 4 p.m., guests can experience the grand reopening of the Maymont Farm. From then on out, the grounds and farm are open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the spring and summer. The indoor exhibits are closed on Monday.
The project was possible due to Maymont’s multi-year Spirit of Generosity capital and endowment campaign.