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Visitors get lost in corn mazes this fall

Several farms cut clear paths for autumn fun

POSTED: September 29, 2013 1:00 a.m.

While his two older brothers roamed through the 12-acre maze of tall corn stalks, 2-year-old McKay Dutcher found his way through a maze more akin to his size.

McKay’s mother, Kathryn Dutcher of Dawsonville, watched her youngest son run along the path in a smaller soybean maze at Uncle Shuck’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch in Dawsonville from behind a nearby fence.

“Having the kiddie maze where they can run and it still feels tall to them but short enough that you can watch them is fun,” Dutcher said, keeping an eye on her son as he ran through the path.

Uncle Shuck’s manager Matt Hughes said the idea is to provide extra activities for the “little guys” since visiting a corn maze in the fall is a family tradition for many in Northeast Georgia. Hughes pointed across the field to the tire mountain where McKay was happily dirtying his play clothes. He chuckled and said the tire mountain will look like an “ant mound of kids” come October.

Hughes said an average of 40,000 people visit the maze every year and weekends in October bring in as many as 5,000.

Few autumn activities in Northeast Georgia are as exciting and family friendly as the corn maze. For most mazes in the area, the season generally starts after Labor Day, but business doesn’t pick up until temperatures cool.

“I think people like to get out in October, because I feel like its subconsciously one of those last hoorah deals,” said Drew Echols, manager of the corn maze at Jaemor Farms in Alto. “They know they’ve got one month to get out and be with their families and have some fun before winter.”

Long before fun-seeking families even start thinking about a visit to the corn maze, the farmers are getting ready.

Charmane Biggers, co-owner of North Georgia Corn Maze in Cleveland, said her husband plants 7 acres of corn in July so it will have time to grow before a professional maze cutter arrives in August.

Maze cutters use a GPS device to carve out a path for the maze in the acres of corn.

As with all farm activities, Uncle Shucks owner Mike Pinzl said weather plays a huge role in the process. Summer rains created a few challenges and delayed the corn being cut by a few weeks.

“The rain affected us,” Pinzl said. “We made it. We did fine, but it was a struggle to get through all that rain.”

Challenges aside, not everyone who works to grow a corn maze thought the rain was a bad thing.

“This year I didn’t have to water,” Hughes said, laughing. “It usually takes about nine nights, nine miserable nights to water, but this year I didn’t have to and that was nice.”

Other mazes weren’t so lucky. According to The Goofy Rooster Corn Maze’s website, www.goofyrooster.com, the maze in Helen won’t open this year because of summer rain.

Many corn maze owners and managers keep in contact with each other throughout the season. Hughes said it helps to know how many people are coming into the area to visit a corn maze and what other mazes are doing to keep the activity exciting.

Many mazes have added extra features such as petting zoos, hay rides and haunted mazes to appeal to a wider variety of visitors.

While walking through the corn stalks might seem like a time-honored tradition, a lot of the corn mazes in Northeast Georgia all began around the same time. North Georgia Corn Maze opened 10 years ago after first visiting Uncle Shuck’s, which has been open for 12 years.

“I think they just started becoming popular about 10 years ago,” Biggers said. “I don’t know who got it started. I know a couple of kids went to Uncle Shucks in Dawsonville and thought it was fun and came back and said ‘We’d like to try this.’”

Angie Grindle, owner of the Tomato House Farms Corn Maze on Ga. 115 across from Emory Stephens Road in Murrayville, has been watching local corn mazes succeed throughout the years and decided she’d like to have one, too. She opened her 3-acre corn maze earlier this month.

Grindle said she knew she had the space behind her home decor shop and the desire to grow her own corn maze, so she couldn’t see a reason not to try it out. Grindle along with her husband, Jeff, cut the path through their corn field with a lawn mower and used GPS to map the maze on Google Earth.

“It’s kind of a country, redneck lookin’ map,” Grindle said, laughing. “But it’s not hard and it doesn’t take long. You can spend an hour in there and have a great time.”

Grindle cut the maze in the shape of a tomato and marked check points throughout the maze with “country” decorations. She said no one expected the maze to make it as far as it has and be successful.

Grindle said she doesn’t know what it is exactly that makes people stop what they’re doing and take a walk through the stalks, but she thinks it has something to do with the country charm of a corn maze.

“I think it’s just country,” Grindle said. “It’s just something in the country and they can kick back and have a good time. And it don’t cost a lot of money.”


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