Fall means pumpkin picking, sweater weather, apple cider, and corn mazes. Many people know what a corn maze is or may have raced through one, but don’t understand what goes into making one.
The Sproul family runs the Heartland Country Corn Maze in Harrisburg, and has been doing so for 17 years. For the family, the maze is a year-round effort.
“We plan and draw the maze in the winter,” Karen Sproul explained. “In the spring the corn is planted both directions. It is all manual, no GPS. We do a grid system and a lot of row counting.”
“It is all manual, no GPS. We do a grid system and a lot of row counting.”
When the corn is three or four inches tall, the maze is cut using a zero-turn lawn mower. A week before the maze opens, it is cleaned up with weed eaters. The leaves on the paths are trimmed so they will not hit people when they are walking through.
The Sprouls, lifelong farmers, draw, cut and run the maze themselves. There are companies you can hire to do this, but they have been doing it themselves since day one. The result is an 11-acre design visible from the air.
“We have done a buffalo, pheasant, walleye, coyote, horse, dinosaurs, butterfly, owls, swans, bears, peacock, turkey, cougar, eagle, deer, and this year is a cow and calf. You can see all of them on our website,” said Karen.
The corn that is used is just normal field corn. To make a good maze it must be at least six feet, so it is over most people’s heads. After the maze closes, the family will harvest the corn. To maintain the maze with so many people tromping through, it is gone through periodically throughout the season and debris is cleaned off the paths.
Walking through the maze is only half the fun. Patrons are given a card with 10 questions. The answers to those questions are at 10 checkpoints in the maze. They are also given a map of the maze showing the locations of the 10 checkpoints. There is one checkpoint not marked on the map with a picture of a treasure chest and a special hole punch to receive a free treat from the concession shed.
Those looking for a scare can come out October 28 and 29. That is when Heartland Country becomes a haunted corn maze, which Karen says, is a lot of fun.
She adds that the maze sees a lot of foreign tourists, as well as locals. “A lot of our patrons have never stepped foot into a cornfield, so this is a new experience for them. We have had multiple marriage proposals in the corn maze and a lot of repeat customers. It is fun to see same faces year after year and getting to know them. We truly enjoy it.”
Heartland Country Corn Maze is open through October 29. Discounts are available for groups of more than 20. For more information, visit heartlandcountrycornmaze.com.