By DENNIS HINES – firstname.lastname@example.org
Who knew that getting lost and honoring the Boys Scouts of America’s 100th anniversary would go together?
That is the case at Jonamac Orchard in Malta, as the design for this year’s corn maze is a Boy Scout badge. Kevin McArtor, co-owner of Jonamac Orchard, said they decided to honor the Boy Scout’s anniversary because of the support that the orchard receives from local troops.
“We get a lot of Boy Scout troops out here. We do some special Boy Scout weekends out here. We’ve done (the corn maze) for years, and we just thought it was real appropriate to do something for (the anniversary),” McArtor said. “My sons are also involved in Boy Scouts in Troop 33 in DeKalb, and I’m one of the adult leaders as well, so it was kind of a natural thing for us.”
McArtor said his sons helped him design the course for the corn maze. He said scouting troops seem to be pleased that the maze is based on the organization’s 100th anniversary.
“It’s been well received,” McArtor said. “Everybody has been real excited about it and real cooperative in assisting us.”
The corn maze is open Friday-Sunday until Oct. 31. Maps and “corn cops” are available in case visitors become too lost. There also are reference points posted throughout the maze.
“It’s a 10-acre maze. It’s about three miles of pathway, and there are two halves,” McArtor said. “If they finish the first half and they’re tired, they can stop if they want.”
For people who like to get a little scared, a haunted corn maze will be open Friday and Saturday evenings throughout October. McArtor said the haunted corn maze has been a popular attraction during the past few years.
“One of the main attractions of it is that people are in a cornfield, and they’re in a maze, and they don’t know how to get out. They’re going to encounter things, and I think it’s part of the element of surprise,” McArtor said. “It’s not over the top. It’s not like a haunted house. It’s actually relatively simple and basic, but it’s in a cornfield. You’re outside. You don’t know where you’re going. It’s dark. We don’t allow flashlights or anything, and that adds to the whole mystique of it.”
Jonamac Orchard has hosted a corn maze since 2000. McArtor said they try to develop a different design each year.
“We’ve done everything from apple trees to Johnny Appleseed. We’ve done him twice, then we’ve used some local events,” McArtor said. “One year was the state of Illinois. We had DeKalb Seed Corn with the winged corn ear. We had the NIU Huskies. One year, Malta had its 150th year celebration, so we celebrated Malta’s 150th year a couple of years ago.”
Employees at Jonamac Orchard begin working on the design for the maze during the winter. They work closely with Brett Herbst of The Maize in Utah to develop the design.
“He is the one who initially taught us how to run a corn maze, how to make one,” McArtor said. “So we start out by sending sketches. We took some logos from the Boys Scouts, and we faxed them or scanned them and e-mailed them to him, then from there began the design of our maze. He lays out the field for us, and then we do all the editing for it and get it the way we want it. Then he prints maps for us, which is what we use to make the lines in the cornfield.”
McArtor said they begin plowing the pathways for the maze during the summer, a process that takes about four days. After the corn maze season has ended, the employees then harvest the rest of the field.
“With the corn, we get some value,” he said, “but it’s not the main reason we plant it.”
McArtor said he is pleased with the support that the corn maze has received the past few years.
“The corn maze has been a big hit,” McArtor said. “It was a perfect addition to what we were already doing, and it has been received very, very well. We’ve been very pleased with how it’s been received.”
Besides the corn maze, the orchard offers several other activities including an apple orchard featuring 8,000 trees and 24 varieties of apples. The orchard also includes an apple train, apple launcher, petting zoo, pumpkin patch and country store.
“Agritainment is the term that they use in this industry now,” McArtor said. “It’s agricultural entertainment, where people can come out and have a ball.”
Johnson’s Pumpkins & Corn Maze
Where: 1765 W. State St., Sycamore
Corn Maze Hours: 5-9:30 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
On the Web: www.johnsonspumpkinsandmaze.com
Where: 19412 Shabbona Road, Malta
Corn Maze Hours: 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
On the Web: www.jonamacorchard.com
Kuiper’s Family Farm
Where: 1N318 Watson Road, Maple Park
Corn Maze Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
On the Web: www.kuipersfamilyfarm.com
Where: 50 W 379 Route 38, Maple Park
Corn Maze Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. every day
On the Web: www.wiltsefarm.com
Yaeger’s Farm Market
Where: 14643 State Route 38, DeKalb
Corn Maze Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; 11 am.-5 p.m. Sunday
On the Web: www.yaegersfarmmarket.com