In 1993, Don Frantz and Adrian Fisher created the world's first corn maze at Pennsylvania's Lebanon Valley College. Since then, corn mazes have sprouted up in every corner of the country as kids and adults alike realize just how fun it is to spend a few hours lost in the fields.
Hundreds of corn mazes now exist across the U.S. Some are simple, designed by hand using graph-paper and a tape measure, while others are created using GPS coordinates, computer-aided design software, and complex patterns that provide as much entertainment in their aerial view as they do on the ground.
Whether the designs were created by hand or by computer, corn maze owners agree that the planning for each year's maze generally starts taking place just a few weeks after the previous year's maze has closed. Corn is planted slightly later in the season than a normal corn crop so that the stalks will be nice and tall but not dried out when it comes time to send visitors through the maze. As the stalks begin to sprout, maze owners take to the field, carving designs with mowers and rototillers and fine-tuning with weed-whackers.
Corn mazes range in size from an acre to 60 plus acres. The current Guinness Book of World Record holder for largest corn maze is the 2014 Corn Patch Pumpkin Maze in Dixon, California, which spanned an impressive 63 acres. But even its creators admitted that they may have taken the idea a little too far when customers continually called emergency services to rescue them after they spent hours lost in the field.
These days, instead of going bigger, many corn mazes are attempting to go better by incorporating more entertainment within the maze itself. "While mazes initially were created just for the challenge of getting lost, we've worked hard over the years to increase the entertainment value by incorporating a variety of fun games and challenges into the experience," says Kamille Combs, marketing director for The MAiZE Inc, a company that specializes in designing elaborate corn mazes.
In addition to navigating their way through the maze, participants now may also need to complete additional activities such as scavenger hunts, photo ops, puzzles, or more physical challenges such as walking a tight rope, riding a zip line, or scooting down a slide. If all of that sounds like your kind of fall-flavored family fun, head out to your local corn maze. Who knew getting lost could be so entertaining?