Fewer people than ever live on a family farm but more and more people are making it a tradition to return to one at harvest time.Besides pumpkin patches and old-fashioned hayrides, corn mazes are a big draw at fall festivals around the country.
There’s only one key to finding your way through a well designed corn maze and that’s luck, says Shawn Monahan of Lewiston, who helped create the area’s newest corn maze at Red Barn Farms in Colton.
This is the first maze for Red Barn Farms, a fourth-generation family farm turned into a tourist destination by the latest owners, Kay and Ty Meyer.
They always dreamed of having a corn maze during their fall festival, now in its sixth year, but they had no experience growing corn or putting in a design, says Kay Meyer. Then they met Monahan, who learned how to build corn mazes “old-school style” in Louisiana.
Red Barn Farm’s 12-acre corn maze opens Friday. It’s slightly bigger than the 11-acre Clearwater Corn Maze created by the University of Idaho opening Oct. 5 in Lewiston. While the Clearwater Corn Maze is one huge maze, there are four separate mazes at Red Barn Farms ranging from easy to more complex to frightening.
A kiddie maze will have one way in and out so parents can rest easy about their children getting lost, Meyer says. The Go Cougs maze is a beginner’s maze with limited dead ends. The Wave the Flag maze (from the air a giant Washington State University flag) is the most complicated with many paths, turns and dead ends. The only way out is over a bridge that overlooks the entire maze. “Corn cops” will patrol the maze helping with directions, clues and passport stations.
There is a higher admission price if visitors want to tour the haunted corn maze, called the Pirates of the Palouse Maze, open after dark Fridays and Saturdays. From the sky it’s a skull and cross bones. On the ground it’s studded with special effects, scary scenes, and costumed actors lurking among the stalks.
All the mazes together contain five miles of trails, says Meyer, who has walked them all hand trimming the leaves growing into the paths.
“I still get a little lost in the Wave the Flag maze,” says the WSU alum.
In a maze with a simple design a person might be able to always turn in one direction and find their way out, Monahan says. “You do that in our maze and you’re going to have to call 911.”
Growing the crop is the most challenging part of creating a maze, says Monahan, who once helped grow a maze depicting Elvis playing a guitar.
The maze begins as a design on a large piece of graph paper. When they planted Monahan counted the rows to match to his map. Each day he went out and spray painted rows that would come out.
When the stalks were knee high he put the design in, Meyer says. “It was like a big cross stitch.”
“It all boils down to farming. I wasn’t sure we’d be able to grow a crop on the prairie,” Monahan says.
The kind of seed they used grows 14-feet-tall in Texas. It grew 7-feet-tall before it was stopped by an early freeze.
Doing it by hand versus using a GPS system allows for finer details, Monahan says. “It’s a challenge either way.”
The corn maze is part of Red Barn Farm’s Fall Festival with hayrides, arts and crafts and a pumpkin patch. Other activities include pig races with piglets racing for an Oreo cookie; the Palouse Sandbox with dried peas instead of sand; the Coloring Coop, a chicken coop with coloring stations; a jumping castle; and movies.
Last year’s one weekend festival drew 2,500 people, Meyer says. This year the festival will take place over five weekends through Oct. 31 with an antique fair Oct 13-14. School field trips with demonstrations like branding and old-fashioned butter making are available by appointment.
What: Red Barn Farms Corn Maze and Fall Festival
When: Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Oct. 31
– Noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
– Noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Red Barn Farms, 501 Wawawai Road, Colton
Cost: General admission is $8 for adults, $7 seniors and students with high school or college identification, $6 for children ages 3-13.
-Admission including the haunted maze is $15 for adults, $14 for seniors and students with high school or college ID, and $13 for children ages 3-13. It is open Fridays and Saturdays.