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Corn to secrecy

Maize mazes keep kids, adults scrambling to make their way through

Maize mazes keep kids, adults scrambling to make their way through

September 05, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

SMITHSBURG -- Five-year-old Tyler Remsburg is running down the path, dwarfed by the walls of cornstalks to his right and left. His grandmother, Smithsburg-area resident Denise Cavender, jogs behind.

"We have to go the other way," he calls back to Grandma.

Tyler, of Hagerstown, had scouted ahead as the pair tries to find their way through the corn maze at Misty Meadow Farm. They are trying to find a series of fake cornstalks at which await a hole-punch to mark their map.

The pair disappear around a bend so soon that the only sounds are crickets, cornstalks rustling in the breeze and cows mooing from the Herbst family's dairy operation nearby. Above the maze is a sunny sky with wisps of clouds and a view of the nearby mountain ridge.

Later Tyler jubilantly announces, "We got three hole punches," and jumps up to slap a corn leaf as if to give it a high-five.

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Corn mazes are a sign of summer's waning days, just like seeing school buses back in action and football players back in pads.

This year the Herbst family and Tri-State Fellowship are among the new hosts of corn mazes.

The Herbsts decided to open a corn maze this season to get people used to coming to their 350-acre farm north of Smithsburg. The family plans to open a creamery there next year.

But creating the corn maze had its pitfalls.

The family didn't finish mowing the cornstalks early enough, Dave Herbst said. The cornstalks were chest high when they were finishing the job. It's easier to mow when the stalks are small and you can look up and see the rows forming, he said.

The opposite problem cropped up at Tri-State Fellowship northwest of Hagerstown. Pastor Paul Ostoich, family ministries pastor at Tri-State, and his intern, Chris Wiles, cut the corn too early.

They cut it when it was 8 inches high using weed whackers, garden hoes and lawn mowers. But the corn kept growing back.

Finally they mowed the cornstalks when they were about 8 feet high, mulching them to the point they didn't grow back, Ostoich said.

How a corn maze was made wasn't a concern for Tyler Remsburg. He was too busy having fun, even bending the rules and the cornstalks slightly once.

Herbst said he planted the corn thicker than usual to discourage people from cutting through the walls of the maze. But it wasn't so thick Tyler couldn't work his way through one wall to get to a fake cornstalk so he could punch a hole on his map.

Like some other corn mazes in the Tri-State area, the Herbsts made their maze about more than just finding your way out. Participants are given a sheet of trivia questions. Many of the quizzes are about agriculture. Answer the questions correctly and the quiz helps guide you through the maze.

Not every decision comes down to a right or wrong answer. But decisions have to be made.

So, standing between rows of green stalks under a blue sky, Cavender and Tyler once again face a dilemma.

"We have to turn right, unless you want to turn left," Cavender says.

Ah, the eternal question of corn mazes: Right or left?

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