Utah Crew Makes Corn Mazes Around the World

Utah Crew Makes Corn Mazes Around the World

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SPANISH FORK, Utah (AP) -- From New Mexico to Maine, farmers have hired Brett Herbst and his crew to create intricately designed cornfield mazes, an increasingly popular agricultural tourism attraction.

In the past 10 years, Herbst said, he and his crew have created more than 840 mazes in six countries.

The mazes are usually cut out of cornfields that grow silage and have 12-foot-high stalk walls.

A Spanish Fork native and founder of The MAiZE, Herbst grew up on a cattle ranch and earned a college degree in agribusiness. He rented several acres of farmland in American Fork, and to supplement his income, he took a lesson from entertainment producer Don Frantz, who is credited with developing an early cornfield maze in central Pennsylvania in 1993.

In the early years, Herbst recruited family and friends to help cut the mazes with machetes and a weed trimmer fitted with a saw blade.

"I didn't know it would grow into this," he said. "If I had known what I was getting into it would have scared the dickens out of me."

The mazes are intricately designed using precise measuring and a flagging system. The design is first created on paper, then crews lay it out on the ground when the stalks are about 6 inches tall. Adjustments are made along the way.

The mazes begin opening in late summer, but the bulk operate in the fall when crops are dormant, some staying open through Christmas, Herbst said.

His trained crews, which range from two to 10 workers, currently are developing eight mazes. Herbst said he has received an order to create a maze in Mexico in December that will open in February. Another one is under way in Texas.

His own maze, opening this fall in partnership with Thanksgiving Point, features a "Napoleon Dynamite" theme, the 2004 hit film set in Preston, Idaho.

Herbst and his crew created more than 170 cornfield mazes over the summer in all but a dozen states, he said.

Orders start coming in January. Design work usually takes place in the late winter and early spring, with most of the physical work in the spring and summer.

"It's year-round for us," Herbst said. "June and July are the busiest months."

Barbara Peavey recently opened her family's 5-acre maze, which commemorates the Boston Red Sox 2004 World Series win. It's the second year for a corn maze at the 190-acre Thunder Road Farm in Corinna, Maine.

"My husband's a huge Red Sox fan," she said.

Last year, the farm's lobster maze attracted some 8,000 people, paying an average of $5 each. This year Peavey expects 10,000 to 15,000 visitors to the family corn field. Schools and church groups have already made reservations.

"We don't get to keep all of it," she said.

Like any business, some must go to expenses. Herbst charged Peavey $1,500 for the design, but prices vary, he said. He also assisted in setting up children activities in the courtyard that leads to the maze.

The MAiZE gets 6 percent of the gate. The mazes provide farmers with a financial boost so they don't have to rely entirely on crop prices which can fluctuate widely from year-to-year. Herbst also helped Peavey in getting publicity and sponsors, Peavey said.

"We work our vegetable crop in the morning then come out here to relax and have fun," Peavey said. "You see people laugh, you see people smile, you see people coming as a family."


On the Net: www.cornfieldmaze.com


Information from: Deseret Morning News, http://www.deseretnews.com

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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