Sunday, October 30, 2005

A-Maize-ing Fun [ACCU BLOG]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [ Community] blog at ( now ) but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes.

Warning: O.T. Off-Topic Rambling Ahead

On 9 a.m. Saturday morning, my wife, daughter, her friend and embarked on an adventure to Ronks, Pennslyvania, home of the biggest and most famous corn maze that I could find, Cherry Crest Farms, home of the Amazing Maize Maze (tm). The trip took over 2 hours one way but it was well worth it.


When we arrived to a field teeming with hundreds of cars, we knew we had come to the right place. This was no amateur farmer-cut maze on a small farm. It was like the County Fair.

The maze was 5 acres and contained 2 miles of trails. It was all quite high tech, complete with bridges, loudspeakers, music, and a movie-like introduction on a flat screen upon entering the maze. The maze is produced by American Maze, Inc., home of the Original Cornfield Maze.


A Nor'easter was off the northeast coast, causing high winds in the area (gusts to 25 mph were observed at LNS, Lancaster Airport nearby). Coupled with the temperatures which barely topped 50, wind chills were near 40. I think this was the coldest family outing I have ever been on. We usually go on trips in the summer, and even local carnival or fair outings are generally warmer than this. We had our winter gear but my wife and I neglected to bring hats.



The theme at this year's maze was the movie Witness. The plot is that an Amish boy witnesses a murder and a policeman goes into hiding, posing as an Amish man, to protect the boy. Even though Pennsylvania is the heart of Amish country, I had never seen the movie. We tried to rent it when we got home but found out it wasn't carried at Blockbuster, so the search continues.


The theme is drawn into the maze design, if you look closely you can see the windmill in the upper left, a barn next to that, then the sun in the upper right. An Amish man, complete with hat, is in the bottom art of the maze. The theme was also present throughout the maze; all dead-ends had facts about the Amish and their way of life and the maze was divided into subsections with "clues" that you had to find. The clues, it turns out, go together to form a map of the maze, which you don't have going in (which kind of surprised me).


Because this was the last weekend it was open, and the weather has not been corn-friendly this fall, much of the corn had fallen down or been stripped of its leaves, and you could really see through the rows, which was to our advantage. Next year, we will endeavor to go earlier in the year, when it would be more opaque. That will probably make it more difficult, but it will have more of that Witness / Children of the Corn / Signs feel.


The time one might take to traverse the maze was predicted to be between 15 minutes and 2 hours. While we were in the maze, announcements were made as groups left the maze... as little as just over 1 hour, and as much as 2 and a half hours.

We were lost in that darn thing for 3 hours 37 minutes.

It was getting a little frustrating near the end but we persevered. You could call to have one of the staff retrieve you from the maze, but that would just be embarrassing, so we stuck it out. Eventually we put our heads together with the 13 (out of 15) map pieces that we had, and kept charging down paths until we found our way out. In retrospect, looking at the complete map, we found our misstep -- we were intrigued by a "barn raising" educational activity and never looked back at the "road not taken" which turned out to be the way out. Next year, we will likely challenge the maze again (it is a different design & theme each year), but we will likely bring: 1.) A pen (to mark where we have been on the map) and 2. A better understanding of the whole maze, map and theme relationships, which were really new to us.


This was near the Strasburg Historical Railroad, which ran a train by several times during the maze.

They also had a petting zoo, which we visited, even though it was close to dark and they were closing it for the season. I've never seen a pig more proud to have his photo taken.