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Have an Adventure in the “Maize”

Have an Adventure in the “Maize”

This fall, many a photo will be taken at corn mazes throughout the United States as part of the celebration of the season. It seems that these rites of autumn have been around forever, but the mazes are a relatively recent development. Still, for family fun while taking that autumn RV trip and the team building skills that ensue, a corn maze is a popular activity. The thrill of successfully navigating the twists and turns in a cornfield brings many a triumphant smile and fist-pump to those who attempt it.

The first corn maze appeared on the scene in the United States in 1993 in Annville in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. Inspired by the hedge mazes in Europe, then Lebanon Valley College student Joanne Marx and alumnus Don Frantz created the “Amazing Maize Maze.” It covered about three acres of land adjacent to the college campus and had almost two miles of paths. Open for only two weekends in 1993, money raised that year benefited the American Red Cross.

Franz would go on to earn a living designing corn mazes for others throughout the United States and other countries.

Not only was the Amazing Maize Maze the first, it also earned the Guinness Book of Records notation as the largest corn maze. That honor has been obtained by mazes that came about after Annville’s success.

Mazes are not a new phenomenon. Their history goes back to ancient times. The mazes and labyrinths of old were elaborate and confusing designs, which were mimicked in artwork, interior designs and other features found in Roman and Greek homes more than 4,000 years ago. In addition to their design elements, these ancient puzzles are believed to have been important components of processions and rituals. Mazes later spread to France, Scandinavia and throughout Europe, manifesting in garden design and hedge mazes by the 18 th century.

Unlike the hedge mazes, corn mazes are cut into a specific design. Hedge mazes are planted into the pattern, usually following a geometric pattern. The pattern of a corn maze, however, is designed to be seen from a bird’s eye view. These patterns can be fun and fanciful, show community or team spirit, or be a scary design.

Corn mazes don’t happen overnight. It starts with the planting of the corn in about mid-May, following a grid. The grid allows for the design to be transformed into the chosen shape once fall arrives. Just like the various environmental elements that can affect the corn crop harvest, farmers who are planning on a corn maze need to also be vigilant in taking care of their crop.

Once the corn stalks have grown to about six feet in height, the maze pattern is formed by mowing down the pathways. New growth of the mowed areas is addressed, and the corn stalks continue to grow, adding additional height to the corn maze pathways.

If you are planning to include a corn maze in your fall road trip itinerary, there are several things to consider. A little pre-planning and preparation will make your family’s visit more enjoyable and memorable.

Research the theme of the corn maze. Some mazes have themes that may be a little scary for children and even some adults. Look for a theme that may reflect a personal interest, such as a fairy tale, a nod to your favorite college football team, or even a patriotic design.

Wear appropriate clothes and shoes. In some parts of the country, weather can be unpredictable – warm one day and cold the next. Having a warm jacket or dressing in layers is crucial to having fun without complaints of being too cold or too hot.

Choose the right shoes. Remember that you are venturing into a cornfield. It’s not the same as the paved walk at your local park. It may be muddy, the ground may be uneven, and some mazes are miles in length.

Stay hydrated. As with any outdoor activity, having water handy to drink is a good idea, especially in warmer climates. Families with young children may take longer to get through the maze than younger adults and people get thirsty. Carrying a water bottle with you prevents dehydration and makes the time in the maze more enjoyable than dealing with issues of thirst.

Remember the sunscreen and bug spray. Even if the air is chilly, a sunny day can still result in a sunburn. And because you are in a field, there may be bugs. If you use bug spray for a walk in the woods, you should do the same when wandering through the corn maze.

Know your surroundings. Many corn mazes provide a map or a diagram of their corn maze so people can find their way in and out. While this is helpful, it is not an absolute. It can be relaxing to simply enter the maze and follow the path, not really knowing where it will lead. In fact, that may make the journey through the corn even more fun.

When the leaves start to change and the pumpkins are starting to appear on farm stands, it is time to venture from the RV into another kind of adventure. Get your land legs ready and head into the corn. Make some memories and hone your direction-finding skills – without GPS.

Sep 16th 2020 Lois Tomaszewski

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