Business Resources - Attraction Design - March 2019

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Treworgy Family Orchards’ corn mazes feature a different theme each year. In 2016, guests made their way through “The Good Knight and the Dragon” corn maze. (Credit: Treworgy Family Orchards)

So You Want to Start a Corn Maze

Tips from the pros on planning and operating a fall family favorite

by Stephanie Janard

Although corn mazes evoke a simpler time, they are a relatively new attraction, first gaining popularity in the late ’90s and early 2000s. To find out how to successfully plan and operate this autumnal attraction, Funworld interviewed three established attractions for their best “kernels” of wisdom. 

How a Florida Farm Revamped Itself with a Corn Maze

In verdant Lake County, Florida, awaits a picture-book farm famed for growing the sweet species of corn known as Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. The prized crop can be bought directly at Long and Scott Farms’ on-site country store or enjoyed in a bowl of chowder at the farm’s café. Guests can also get lost among rows and rows of corn in a maze that brings thousands of visitors every fall.

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How to Keep Guests from Getting Lost

We’ll start with the high-tech: apps that enable GPS tracking inside a corn maze via smartphones. According to Maize Quest’s Hugh McPherson, “For some people, it’s the only way they’ll go in.”

At Long and Scott Farms, lost guests can raise an American flag that will be seen by staff. 

Treworgy Family Orchards takes a unique approach in that its maze isn’t designed to just find a way out. “The point is to find the treasure within,” says Matthew Pellerin. 

To that end, the maze has different exits, and corn is planted in one direction so lost guests can simply walk through it out of the maze.

“Each year we add something different, but the main corn maze is always the primary attraction. It is only 20 percent of what we do but has brought a lot of attention to the farm,” says Rebecca Ryan, agritourism manager at Long and Scott Farms. 

For farms interested in launching a maze for similar purposes, Ryan emphasizes the maze must be easy for visitors to access and see from the road, providing a visual draw that makes people want to visit.

Long and Scott Farms’ maze is about 7 acres, offering plenty of room to keep visitors busy inside for upward of two hours. That may seem like a long time to be in a maze, but it goes by faster than one would think if the maze is set up for games and challenges. 

Long and Scott Farms hired an outside vendor, Maize Quest, to design the farm’s maze and game stations. The games are fun and educate visitors about farming.

Another suggestion from Ryan is to end with a grand finale, like the farm’s giant playground that delights kids as soon as they exit the maze.

Her most important advice: use your rural location as an asset. 

“Don’t make it feel like a business. Most people have to drive a distance to get to the maze, and they want to talk and visit a bit. Greet them with a smile and show interest in them. Being at a farm really taps into something with people,” she observes. 

Turning Works of Art into Prize-Winning Corn Mazes

Prior to starting their farm in the ’80s, members of the Treworgy family were about as far from farmers as they could get. Patriarch Gary Treworgy was a captain with the Merchant Marine who spent long stretches away. Determined to find an occupation that brought him together with his family, he hit upon a farm.

Today, Treworgy Family Orchards in Levant, Maine, is nationally recognized as having the top corn maze in America, voted No. 1 by USA Today’s 10Best Local Experts.

The secret just may be how Treworgy creates all its yearly maze designs in house.

“We’ve developed our own system. It helps that my brother-in-law has amazing art skills,” explains Matthew Pellerin, agricultural manager at Treworgy Family Orchards and son-in-law of Gary Treworgy.

This system has some secret elements, but the general process is that after the family decides on a theme and Pellerin’s brother-in-law designs it, the drawing is turned into a computer graphic overlaid with a grid. This provides the template for a bigger, spray-painted grid on the acreage where the corn maze will be located.

The designs vary each year, but all are spectacular from an aerial view.

Little details contribute just as much to the experience, which include keeping the weeds down. Otherwise, the corn grows shorter and the drying stalks scratch at people walking by.

As for adventure, the Treworgy maze offers plenty of games inside, with free ice cream as a reward. Special events are another feature, including a family maze night and trick-or-treating in the maze. The latter is kid-friendly—no “terror mazes” at Treworgy. 

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Long and Scott Farms’ corn maze can keep visitors busy for more than two hours, especially since the maze is set up for games and challenges. (Credit: Long and Scott Farms)

Meet the Maze Master

Hugh McPherson’s Maize Quest company based in New Park, Pennsylvania, designs around 75 corn mazes a year for operators all around the country. His team creates countless imaginative designs: from dinosaurs to Arabian Nights themes.

The most important recommendation McPherson can give—as both a maze designer and operator of his own acclaimed corn maze—is to create the best possible experience for visitors.

“A lot of people get distracted by the sexy marketing out there. They think the marketing is most important, but it’s the inverse. We’re talking about a family that has only one day to be together ... and one person suggests the corn maze ... so you better deliver, or that person’s going to hear about it from the rest of the family,” McPherson says.

On the other hand, get the experience right and people will positively talk up your attraction on social media.

With that, game stations and other diversions are important. “You can only walk around in corn so long for it to be fun,” he points out. His team can design games and courses that align with any chosen theme.

Customer service is another essential, so Maize Quest offers an “Agritourism Boot Camp” that can help operators go from zero to 30 or even 500 staff in one season.

“If you have the people trained right, you can overcome a broken game station. We’ve had a maze get hit by a hurricane, and the corn looked terrible. But between the maze design and the friendly staff, people still came,” he says.


Stephanie Janard is a longtime freelance writer for Funworld. She can be reached at sjanard@msn.com.