A new crop of corn mazes has sprung up in East Tennessee, while farms that have grown the attractions for years cultivate ways to expand their businesses.
In addition to the new maze at Cruze Farms, Blake Dairy Farms in Strawberry Plains opened its first Corn Maze and Farm Festival Sept. 22, and Apple Valley Corn Maze is open through October about a mile off Sevier County's busy parkway.
And though Oakes Farm in Corryton is on its 10th year of mazes, the theme of this year's is making headlines: Oakes' maze has a race car theme with a portrait of local NASCAR driver Trevor Bayne carved into it. Of course, he can only be detected from the air.
Corn mazes began to sprout in Tennessee in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Maple Lane Farms in Blount County's Greenback area opened its maze in 1999. The maze, the second to open in the Southeast, traced its roots to a pick-your-own pumpkin patch begun in 1992, says owner Bob Schmidt.
Soon, the idea of charging people money to walk a path through corn stalks took root. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture's Pick Tennessee Products website lists 57 corn mazes, hay mazes, pumpkin patches and related agri-ventures in Tennessee. Twenty-eight of them are in East Tennessee.
Maze owners do their best to add other attractions to keep visitors coming.
The maze at Blake Dairy Farms, which is cut so that is appears, from the sky, to look like a farmer milking a cow, also includes a pumpkin patch, hayrides, petting zoo with farm animals and games for children. A fright trail opens Oct. 6.
The Apple Valley Corn Maze includes adult and children's paths, hayrides and a petting zoo. There's a flashlight-only haunted maze starting at sunset Oct. 14-31.
At Oakes, brothers-in-law Ken Oakes and David Black have worked to make the attraction more than a maze, and Schmidt has done the same at the long-running Maple Lane maze. Last year, Maple Lane added a haunted mansion attraction to its scary offerings. Children's rides of a Ferris wheel and a train along with an inflatable slide add to the atmosphere at Maple Lane, says Schmidt.
"When we started corn mazes were pretty much of a novel thing, and just the idea of going through a maze was something new," says Ken Oakes. "Over the years we have tried to add things so that now it's a day at the farm, and the maze is one thing you can do."
Additions at Oakes Farm include a hay maze that children climb over instead of run through, a pit filled with shelled corn to dig in and a giant inflatable pillow to jump on. There's a petting zoo and big sand play area. New this year is a pumpkin cannon; employees will fire pumpkins through the air some 600 to 700 feet. Also new are "Praise Nights" for church groups on Oct. 12 and 19.
Oakes doesn't release how many people come to its mazes, but it's safe to say thousands each year. So why do people want to walk through corn?
"It's a good family activity. Outside, it's a great time of year and it's fun. For a lot of families, we have seen it become a tradition," says Oakes.
Says Schmidt: "I learned early on it's so much more than a field of corn. It really is a challenge to people. And they have a sense of accomplishment when they come out ... You leave your cell phone, leave your laptop and you be a pumpkin farmer, a corn farmer for a day."
Area corn maze information
Cruze Farm Corn Maze
What: Family & children's mazes, hay ride, pumpkins, children's activities, farm animals, food
Where: 7309 Kodak Road, Knoxville
When; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays, noon-6 p.m. Sundays Oct. 1-2, Oct. 8-9, Oct. 15-16, Oct. 22-23 & Oct. 29-30
Admission: Maze $6 adults, $3 ages 12 & younger, free ages 2 & younger; half price Oct. 15 for anyone wearing overalls; $2 hayrides, pumpkins, food, fall decorations sold, free children's activities
Blake Dairy Farm Corn Maze
What: 10-acre maze, pumpkin patch, hayrides, children's games, farm petting zoo
Where: 8831 Ruggles Ferry Road, Strawberry Plains
When: 3-9 p.m. Thursday, 3-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday through Oct. 31; haunted night maze starts Oct. 6
Admission: Maze $10 adults, $7 ages 3-12, free under 3; hayride $2; pumpkins $3-$5
Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch at Oakes Farm
What: Regular maze with "Farm Scene Investigation" game; haunted "Trail of Doom" maze, animal exhibits, hay maze, pedal karts, hayride, pumpkins, giant bouncing pillow, pumpkin cannon
Where: 8240 Corryton Road, Corryton
When: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday & Friday; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday in September, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday in October; 1-6 p.m. Sunday; Corn Maze open today, Sept. 30-Oct. 2; Oct. 6-9, Oct. 13-16; Oct. 20-23, Oct. 27-31; Trail of Doom open Sept. 30-Oct 1, Oct. 6-8, Oct. 13-15, Oct. 20-22, Oct. 27-29, Oct. 31; Sunset Praise Night for church groups 6-9:30 p.m. Oct. 12 or Oct. 19
Admission: $10 adults, $8 ages 3-11 includes regular maze, hayride & "back 40" activities; Trail of Doom $15 adults, $13 ages 10 & younger, $2 less Thursdays (haunted admission doesn't include hayride/ other activities); Praise Night $6 admission, $10 admission & meal, Praise Night reservations at 865-688-6200
Apple Valley Corn Maze
What: Easy, difficult maze options, adult & children's mazes, petting zoo, food, pumpkin patch, hayride, flashlight-only haunted maze
Where: 460 Lonesome Valley Road, Sevierville
When: 5-9 p.m. Monday- Thursday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday- Sunday through Oct. 14; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily Oct. 15-31; haunted maze starts Oct. 15
Admission: Maze $12 adults, $10 ages 12 & younger through Oct. 14; $15 adults, $12 ages 12 & younger Oct. 15-31; hayrides $3; haunted maze $13 ages 13 & up, $12 ages 6-12
Kyker Farms Corn Maze
What: Mazes, hayrides, pumpkin patch
Where: 938 Alder Branch Road, Sevierville
When: Maze 4 p.m.-dark Thursday & Friday, 10 a.m.-dark Saturday Sept. 23-Oct. 29; haunted trail dark-10 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays Oct. 7-29
Admission: Maze $12 ages 6 & up, $5 ages 3-5; haunted trail $10 per person
Maple Lane Farms
What: Corn maze, hayrides, haunted maze, haunted mansion
Where: 1040 Maple Lane, Greenback
When: Maze 6-10 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday until Oct. 19; maze and haunted maze open through Oct. 31 with hours dusk-10 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, noon-10 p.m. Sunday with haunted maze starting dusk-10 p.m. nightlynAdmission: Maze $10 ages 12 & older, $8 ages 6-11; free ages 5 & younger; haunted maze $12 a person, haunted mansion $12 a person; combo haunted maze & mansion $22 a person; hayrides $2.50 ages 6 & older, free ages 5 and younger; pumpkins 50 cents to $12
Deep Well Farm Corn Maze
What: Corn maze, hayrides, pumpkin patch, petting zoo
Where: 9567 Highway 11E, Lenoir City
When: 4-9 p.m. Thursday, 2-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, noon-7 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 31
Admission: $8 for maze, $13 for maze with pumpkin patch ride & free pumpkin
Howard Farms Big Piney Corn Maze
What: 8-acre maze, haunted trail, haunted maze
Where: 11122 Watkins Road, Loudon
When: Maze 6-10 p.m. Thursday & Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, 1-8 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 31; half-mile haunted trail through woods starts dusk Oct. 1-31; haunted maze starts dusk Oct. 21-31; haunted maze not recommended for under age 8
Admission: Regular maze $7; haunted maze $10, haunted maze & trail $15
Ballinger Farm Crazy Maze
What: Maze, hayride, pumpkin patch, haunted maze
Where: 2738 Renfro Road, Jefferson City
When: 6-11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 1-6 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 31; haunted maze starts mid-October
Admission: Maze $10 per person, ages 2 & younger free with paying adult
Echo Valley Corn Maze
What: Maze, haunted trail, children's pumpkin maze, petting farm, hay loft play area
Where: 915 Bethel Church Road, Jefferson City
When: 3-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 1-8 p.m. Sunday through Nov. 5; haunted trail dusk-11 p.m. Friday & Saturday Oct. 14-15, Oct. 21-22, Oct. 28-29
Admission: General admission to regular mazes, playground & barn $7 ages 12 & older, $5 ages 3-11; "The Works' admission with pumpkin & hayride $12 ages 12 & older, $10 ages 3-11; Haunted Trail $15 per person
For a complete list of mazes in East Tennessee and entire state see http://picktnproducts.org.
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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