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Hagerstown Corn Maze is 'something fun to do this weekend'

September 01, 2012|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI | alnotarianni@aol.com
  • Several people use maps to find their way around the Hagerstown Corn Mazes Saturday afternoon at Celebration Farm on Garden View Road near Maugansville.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

“Where are you?” Charlae Matthews called to her family.

Surrounded by tall zig-zagging rows of corn stalks, the 12-year-old had lost sight of her parents and siblings. Just a few moments later, she discovered them a short but winding distance away.

“I thought they were going the same way I was, but then they turned around,” Charlae said after they had all made their way back to a clearing.

“She thinks she is Magellan,” her father, Larry Pitts, teased.

Larry Pitts and his wife, Jennifer, of Hagerstown took Charlae, Larry Pitts, 9, and Jane’t Pitts, 7, to the opening day of this year’s Hagerstown Corn Maze on Saturday. Celebration Ministries is operating the maze for the fourth year at Celebration Farm on Garden View Road off Cearfoss Pike.

“We needed to find something fun to do this weekend,” Larry Pitts said. “We were tired of boring weekends in the house.”

His children deemed the maze entertaining enough that they hoped to return again with friends.

Clarence Horst, chairman of the board at Celebration Ministries and overseer of Celebration Farm, agreed that the maze is fun. But the by-products of that fun are far-reaching, he said.

Celebration Farm is a community-wide endeavor of ministries, businesses, organizations and individuals who have a desire to help people who are in need, Horst said. Given its land and resources, planners at Celebration Farm initially considered the idea of a corn maze as a fundraiser for the farm. As the idea developed, Horst said, they began to realize its reach could be wider.

“We’ve been able to promote tourism and agriculture in Washington County with the maze, the corn, the pumpkins,” Horst said. “And we’ve been able to generate proceeds that go back to faith-based nonprofits in the area.”

Sixteen different faith-based groups including a school, a youth group and a pregnancy center volunteer to staff the maze during agreed-upon days during September and October. Those groups receive one-third of maze proceeds raised during their volunteer hours to use toward community efforts.

Admission costs $6 for adults and teens, $3 for children 5 to 12, and is free for children 4 and younger.

Horst said the maze generated $16,000 that went back into local nonprofits last year.

“This expands the sphere of influence and provides a lot of public exposure for staffing groups,” he said. “We have more groups requesting to get on the volunteer list than we have space on the list.”

While he acknowledges the merits of national and international ministries, Horst said participating nonprofits must agree to use the money locally “where it needs to go.”

In keeping with a local focus, organizers do not mow maze patterns arbitrarily. They choose themes that are relevant to the area. This year’s patterns are the words, “Heart of the Civil War,” the Hagerstown Suns logo, and the words “Home Run the movie.” The first is in observation of the war’s 150th anniversary and its history in Washington County. The second is a nod to local issues of whether to keep the Suns in Hagerstown and whether to build a new stadium. And the last ties the baseball theme with a film featuring a baseball player who struggles to overcome addiction. The film, to be released next spring, recognizes the mission of Celebrate Recovery, one of the programs of Celebration Ministries.

Margaret Sevco was a staffing volunteer Saturday with Celebration Ministries. Sevco said families seem to enjoy the maze during the day, while teens like to go through with flashlights at night. Though the mazes are challenging, even visitors with little sense of direction need not worry about getting lost, she said.

“We have cheater poles in the maze,” Sevco said. “If you get turned around, the poles have arrows that tell you which way to go.”

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