It’s that time of year again.
Believe it or not, the first corn maze in the U.S. was built in Annville, PA, just east of Harrisburg, in 1993. So the practice of creating an elaborate maze through a cornfield isn’t exactly an ancient Appalachian tradition. Early mountain settlers didn’t dig up their crops to create crazy shapes in their gardens to get lost or to hide from native aggressors. Corn was a valuable foodstuff to the settlers. Recreation always came second to eating. Just like today.
But that doesn’t matter. Corn mazes are fun for the whole family. While you might feel bad momentarily for all those families before 1993, that shouldn’t stop you and your family from enjoying a day on the farm. And that’s where you’ll discover a bonus fact: corn mazes pair well with pumpkin patches and hayrides.
From mid-September to early November, corn mazes “come of age.” Farmers plant certain fields specifically to be used as mazes. Typically, they design the paths so that they create a picture that spells out a message you can only see from the air. For example, that very first corn maze contained a stegosaurus dubbed “Cornelius the Cobasaurus.” But the fun is not discerning the shape, but finding your way in and then out again. If you can. Bwah-ha-ha-ha!
Now imagine finding your way in a corn maze at night. Some farms have started offering nighttime or even “haunted” mazes for teens and adults. These scary nighttime mazes are definitely not for kids. Before visiting the maze in your area, check its hours of operation and make sure it’s still standing.
Orange Patches of Fun
Just as Christmas tree farms provide an adventure for families who want to pick out their own tree to take home and decorate, pumpkin patches allow families to choose their own pumpkins to take home to carve. Most of the time, it’s the kids who pick out the pumpkins. Most parents don’t mind. In fact, that’s the point: show them the pumpkins and turn them loose.
You can find pumpkin fields where kids can pick out their favorites from the field where they grow. You also can find pumpkin patches, where harvested pumpkins wait to be claimed. Both can be fun for everyone, although the fields usually require your kids to cover a greater area to find “that perfect one.”
A farm that offers both a corn maze and a pumpkin patch is a bonanza for a family adventure. Other amenities may include hayrides, cow trains, petting zoos and more, depending on the farm. Always plan ahead and contact the farm you want to visit.
One such farm is the Valley Star Farm (valleystarfarm.com) in Luray, Virginia. Its pumpkin patch is open through the end of October, and its large corn maze contains clues that you have to find to solve a puzzle. The farm also has a hay tunnel, hayrides, a sandbox and a duck race.
Another Appalachian farm with a corn maze and a pumpkin patch is at Kelley Farms (lexcornmaze.com) outside Lexington, Kentucky. Their 10-acre maze draws crowds from all eastern Kentucky. Besides the maze and patch, they have hayrides, duck races and more.
If you have a family, this is a fun time of the year. Find a pumpkin patch and corn maze near you — or visit one when you come to an Appalachian state in October. Start a new family tradition!