Sunday, February 22, 2009

What is a corn maze? Families and farmers win as corn mazes extend the harvest season and offer fun, recreation, and profit to the farmers.

What is a corn maze?

Families and farmers win as corn mazes extend the harvest season and offer fun, recreation, and profit to the farmers.

After the corn is harvested most farmers plow down the corn stalks. A few sell them for fall decorations. The ingenuity of New England farmers is a marvel. Several have discovered another way to make money. Their corn stalks become giant mazes. This is a trend becoming popular across the country but I believe it started with our thrifty New England farmers. Corn mazes offer families an opportunity to wend their way through intricately designed fields. It offers farmers another way to earn money to see them through the winter.

These mazes are not amateur efforts. They are designed prior to planting by such professionals as Brett Herbst who have done over 100 mazes. One of those mazes is in Connecticut at Lyman Orchards. It stretches over 3 acres and is cornucopia-shaped. Like to get lost in a puzzle and find your way out? That's what these mazes are all about. No need to worry though. Tired walkers will find plenty of benches to take a rest. At one farm there is a large tower which oversees the field. A guide is stationed there with flags. Lost walkers need only look up to see which direction to go next. If that doesn't help, a volunteer maze rescue person will hurry through the paths and lead the lost out.

There are even mazes which offer directions on cassette tape. The tapes and recorders are rented. Another which offers cellular phone contact. Playing in a cornfield might be as old as America, but technology makes the old new. The intrepid can enter the maze with no outside help and find their own way out. The minimum recommendation is to use the map available free with purchase of a maze ticket. I've been told most of the men refuse to even glance at the map.

At first, the maze looks like it will be easy to get in and out of, but that is deceptive. Even with a map, and clues along the way, most people wind up going around in a circle. The adults take the longest to find their way out. Kids of 8 or older have been seen darting quickly through the twists and turns not fooled by dead ends. At our local maze, several amused adults were led out by grinning children.

A lot of creativity goes into these structures. There are activities within the maze for small children. This is important because small children can panic if they don't find their way out quick enough. So there are jars of bubbles with wands, balloons, stone games and even in one maze, a trivia game section. Each farm lends its own personal touch to the maze creation.

There are mazes which spell out town names, others are designed in the shape of cartoon characters. Some have mini-gardens in the center where weary walkers can sit down and rest before going further.

Going through a maze is a great family fun activity and the price is reasonable also. In Connecticut and Massachusetts mazes stay open until the end of October. Other areas may close sooner according to the weather. Mazes have proven a boon to farmers who also set up stands to sell the rest of their pumpkins, corn and applies. At the end of the season the mazes are plowed down so the earth is cleared for next year's planting. The ground rests under the winter cold and people prepare for the next big holiday, Thanksgiving, with Christmas not far behind.

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