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HomeSeasonal EventsFallBehind the Scenes of the High-Tech World of Corn Mazes

Behind the Scenes of the High-Tech World of Corn Mazes

In 1996, Teresa Summers had the idea to open a small five-acre corn maze on her farm in Frederick so that visitors picking pumpkins could enjoy the fun of getting lost in the stalks. “When we started out, it was just me and a lawnmower,” Summers says. “From there it just grew.” More than 800 corn mazes across the United States will open their trails this fall to visitors who love to get lost. The appeal of corn mazes has more than tripled in the past 20 years, forcing farmers to meet the demand with increasingly complex designs and accompanying themes. Indeed, corn mazes are big business, and farmers are eager to invest in a maze that might generate more income in six weeks than an entire year of traditional farming. Since opening, the Summers Farm maze has expanded to more than twice its original size and draws thousands of visitors from all over the state—and the design requires way more than a lawnmower. For help with these complex designs, farmers like Teresa Summers are turning to professional maze design companies like the Maize Company, based in Utah. Professional corn maze companies assist farmers in the design process through the use of drones, GPS or graphing the design on paper. Planning starts months in advance, beginning with the design or theme choice. “The design plays a big part,” says Carol Paul, manager of the corn maze at Sunrise Farm in Gambrills. “So many people will actually choose a corn maze based on its design. People will bypass a closer corn maze and drive to a further one just because it has a theme that appeals to them, or has a more complicated design.” After a design is chosen, the farmers begin planting the corn in early July, laying the plants out in a grid format, with equal rows horizontal and vertical. “This year we planted 30,000 seeds—15,000 horizontal, 15,000 vertical,” says Teresa Summers. Within just a few weeks of new growth, the maze design company will visit and decide which rows to eliminate. After that, the newly created trails require weekly weeding and mowing, and often, a lot of luck. “The deer and the weather can be a nuisance and we always worry about disease to the corn,” Paul says. “Pre-season, you pray for rain and then once you open, you pray it never rains again.” The design, planting and execution is just the beginning. Today’s mazes often feature interactive trivia and games to assist maze-goers through the trails, and the theme can extend throughout the farm. For this year’s Harry Potter theme, the maze at Sunrise Farm features a scavenger hunt to find the 7 horcruxes, as well as the Goblet of Fire. In the barnyard, visitors can enjoy butter beer while swinging on broomstick swings, and play quidditch for prizes. At Summers Farm, visitors will find a maze that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, with games and trivia about Apollo 11, making for a fun, but educational experience. Despite the months of planning and complexity required for these mazes, their appeal still harkens back to simple fall days spent outdoors. “Agritourism is everywhere because families are looking to step away from technology and enjoy an afternoon outside,” Summers says. Paul agrees. “It’s not just being outdoors in the fall weather. Corn mazes are like a game that a family can do together. And in October the experience of walking through a spooky trail surrounded by towering corn stalks—there’s nothing else like it.” Get lost in the fun at these four Maryland corn mazes that feature elaborate designs and thrilling twists and turns. Summers Farm 5620 Butterfly Ln., Fredericksummersfarm.com This 12-acre corn maze celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing with historical trivia and educational games. The maze has an easier route geared toward younger children and a harder section that may take up to an hour to solve. You can also enjoy an obstacle course, a jumping pillow, giant slides, farm animals, pig races, along with some 40 other attractions. Maryland Sunrise Farm100 Dairy Ln., Gambrillsmdsunrisefarm.com The maze and fall festival at Sunrise Farm pays homage to everyone’s favorite wizard, Harry Potter. The 8-acre maze design features Harry Potter flying over Hogwarts. The fall festival will have a giant straw pyramid, a quidditch game, hay rides, a corn pit, butter beer, broomstick swings, and dozens more activities. On weekend nights, visitors can brave the maze in the dark, using only a flashlight.  Bowles Farm22880 Budds Creek Rd., Clements. bowlesfarms.com Southern Maryland’s largest corn maze is known for its extraordinary designs. This year, visitors can experience a classic “Fall Family Fun” theme featuring an enormous scarecrow surrounded by pumpkins, a barnyard fence, and fall foliage. There are also straw jumping pits, slides, a corn maze express train, and a giant pumpkin patch. Plus catch weekend events like the popular classic car show. Montpelier Farms1720 Crain Highway North, Upper Marlboromontpelierfarms.com‘Angry Birds!’ is the 2019 theme of the 7-acre maze at Montpelier Farms in Upper Marlboro. Beginning in October, Montpelier will have flashlight nights on Friday and Saturdays until 11 p.m. The farm also features a roping range, gemstone mining, straw art, face painting, pumpkin bowling and barnyard basketball. Montpelier Farms can also host private parties and rents space for private bonfires. Click here for more corn mazes and pumpkin patches —Katie Riley  

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