Pay To Get Lost: Corn Mazes A Popular Fall Activity

Oct 24, 2013

Aerial view of corn maze

The fall is a time when farmers prepare to harvest the year's crop. Half a year's worth of preparation, planting and waiting all comes down to the moment when they bring in their paycheck. But there are several farmers and business people who have a different idea in mind:

It's a beautiful autumn afternoon - there's a cloudless blue sky and the air's crisp at Bomke's Patch, a family farm and pumpkin patch just west of Springfield on Country Lake Road. The walls of corn that create my path in the maze are nearly harvest-able and over seven feet tall. Families are following their maps and finding their way to several check points in the maze to get to the end.

Paths for corn mazes are mowed down lanes in a cornfield. These paths intersect, twist and turn through a field to confuse participants of the end point. There are over 30 corn mazes in Illinois, generally an attraction at farms that provide other family-friendly activities during the fall - like apple-picking and live entertainment. While the maze provides some fun, here, pumpkins are the main attraction. Families come from all around central Illinois to find the perfect canvases for their jack-o-lanterns.

"From what I understand, Illinois is one of the largest pumpkin growers around in the United States. So, there is that trend, and people seem to enjoy it. They enjoy getting out. They enjoy the country... They enjoy just being out in nature, basically," says Cathy Bomke, part owner of Bomke's Patch. Adding a corn maze is new for the patch - and another way to provide families a bit of outdoor fun as the weather cools says Bomke: "This is our first year that we've tried the corn and bean maze and it's been very successful. In the past we had straw mazes and it was really geared more toward smaller children. And we thought it would be nice to have something for teenage kids and adolescents to come out and have some fun with rather than just doing the straw maze that we had."

Bomke says the maze was planted with GPS technology. Her son and son-in-law walked the coordinates and the path was mowed behind them. From an aerial view, the maze creates the vision of a pumpkin.

Joe and Teresa Smith are here with their son Lucas. The Jacksonville family is near the end of the maze and all smiles. Lucas says the family has gotten lost six times.

The pumpkin patch's season ends October 26th. So what happens to all that corn people have been winding their way through for the past six weeks? "We'll harvest it," says Bomke.

Bomke says luckily no one has gotten TOO lost in the maze just yet. She says at 5 acres, it's smaller than others in the state. As for the Smiths, they say it was a pleasant experience. Still, there's other things here at Bomke's Patch grabbing little Lucas's attention. "He's done, he's gonna go pick pumpkins," explains Teresa. Proof perhaps that nothing beats a good old gourd when it comes to getting into the spirit of fall.