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Halloween haunts: Area attractions focus on fun and safety
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Corn stalks form two different corn mazes in the shape of Civil War soldiers at Uncle Shuck’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch. At the end of fall, the corn stalks will be made into animal feed. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Area Halloween attractions

Uncle Shuck’s Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; haunted mazes available Fridays and Saturdays at dusk
Where: 4520 Ga. 53 E, Dawsonville
How much: $10 corn maze, $13 haunted corn maze, other activities available at various prices
More info: www.uncleshucks.com or 770-772-6223

Jaemor Farms corn maze and more

When: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 1-6 p.m. Sundays
Where: 5340 Ga. 365, Alto
How much: $9-10, other activities available at various prices
More info: www.jaemorfarms.com/corn-maze or 770-869-3999

Buford Corn Maze

When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 10 p.m. Sundays; extended hours next week
Where: 4470 Bennett Road, Buford
How much: $14
More info: bufordcornmaze.com or 678-835-7198

Some corn mazes are supposed to be scary. But corn maze operators want customers scared for the right reasons and say they invest time and money to ensure safety.

Mike Pinzl, owner of Uncle Shuck’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch in Dawson County, said operating a corn maze isn’t so different from operating any other kind of business. It requires the same business permits and licenses, though it’s providing a very different service.

Pinzl said safety is important at Uncle Shuck’s, especially on days it has the heaviest foot traffic.

“We obviously have liability insurance,” Pinzl said, “but we also hire an on-duty officer there for security and we hire extra staff for crowd control.”

Extra staff at Uncle Shuck’s includes Dawson County High School students. Pinzl said the haunted maze acts, in part, as a fundraiser for the school.

Drew Echols, manager at Jaemor Farms, said there are several factors in keeping a corn maze safe.

Multiple times a day, employees at Jaemor run safety checks on the farm’s various attractions. Echols said this includes checking tires, safety chains and anything “people are going to have their hands on.”

“One of the bigger issues is insurance, more than anything else,” Echols said of operating a maze. “Our county and the city work with us, but making sure you’re insured appropriately and correctly when you’re going to have all these people come out here on the farm is a big deal.”

Echols said Jaemor has a minimum of 10 people working the corn maze at all times.

Tina Beggs, co-owner of the Buford Corn Maze, said her “haunted forest” has a minimum of 12 people working at all times.

“We have guides so that people aren’t just going through it by themselves,” Beggs said. “They go through in groups of about six. But we also have little escape exits just in case of emergencies.”

Echols said it’s in the best interest of both the customers and the property owners to keep everyone in the maze safe.

“You want to make sure everything is right because people can get hurt in a hurry and it only takes one accident and you have to shut down,” Echols said. “So we pay close attention to the details.”

All three mazes are themed and redesigned each year, and the owners said running a themed corn maze is a year-round process.

“Right around the first of the year we start working on designs. It’s not an everyday, sit at the desk, whole deal, but there’s a lot of planning that goes on from January,” Echols said.

Pinzl said Uncle Shuck’s — which has two large, never-haunted mazes along with the haunted one — creates new venues inside the trails, new themes and new scares each year.

Echols said planning and layout begin in January, and the bulk of the planting work begins in July. By mid-August, employees cut the maze out in time to open in September.

By the first week of November, they’re doing self-evaluations and thinking about how to improve next year.

“You get out of that October whirlwind and figure out everything you did right and everything you did wrong,” Echols said.

“You figure out what to do better next time, and the next thing you know, it’s January and time to start thinking about next year.”