Corn maze grows patriotism

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Aug 282002
 
Authors: Josh Hardin

An amazing time awaits visitors to LaSalle, Colo. where patriotism has been planted into a cornfield in the middle of America’s heartland.

This is the third consecutive year farm owners Glen and Kim Fritzler have created a corn maze, the latest harvest in the growing world of “agritainment.” This year’s maze is in the shape of a waving American flag with an eagle in flight in front of its stars and stripes. The design is completed with the message: “God Bless America” on the top.

In previous years the Fritzlers chose designs based on the Denver Broncos’ logo, but this year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks the decision for this year’s maze was immediate.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” Glen said, “It didn’t even take me two seconds to decide what design I wanted to do. Everyone has patriotism inside of them. We just wanted to show that and do a patriotic design.”

The design was created in cooperation with Brett Herbst of the MAiZE Corporation. Herbst has created more than 330 mazes contributing to the “MAiZE craze” which includes nearly 140 affiliated sites across the United States, Canada and Europe. There will be five mazes, three of which are affiliated with MAiZE, which will be sprouting up in Colo. this year.

Glen said since his grandfather and father were farmers, the natural thing for him to do was to become one too. He enjoys how his job gives him the freedom to make his own decisions and the freedom to watch his children grow up.

“I love watching crops grow,” he said.” This corn is as pretty as any you’ll see in the state.”

So how does an everyday farmer become a ringleader in the “agritainment” industry?

According to Glen the reason was monetary. The Fritzlers farm had been consistently losing money for almost a decade. It finally came to the point where the family considered giving it up for good. Although a new opportunity for profit arose when a cousin of the Fritzlers came back from a trip to a corn maze in Arizona. When Glen first heard the idea his reaction was “why would anyone want to do that?”

Although the idea soon began to take root in his mind and he decided to give it a try in the fall of 2000. The maze has been successful ever since. About 25 to 30,000 people are expected to visit the maze this year.

Preparing the maze is what takes the most work. The only tools Glen used to create the maze were a bag of herbicide and a map. The map, provided by MAiZE, was printed on a paper grid that was divided into 24 segments showing where to remove the corn. It took about six days for the corn to be extracted. Unlike some cornfields across the country, Glen did not use GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) photos to create his maze.

Despite working on the maze on his own, Glen admits he has yet to walk through it all at once since its completion. During orientations for his staff this year, Glen has gotten lost three times.

“No matter where you are in the maze it looks about the same,” he said. “I even had a map with the correct trail highlighted. All the employees were laughing at me.”

The time an average visitor should expect to finish navigating the labyrinth of corn is about an hour. The maze will feature more than two hours of twists and turns that spiral through 85 decision points.

“It’s going to be a hard one this year, especially in the area where it says ‘God Bless America,'” said Tom Horn, a friend of the Fritzler family. “I like this design better than the Broncos designs they did,”

There will be 14 different stages that will let people know if they are getting progressively closer to the exit in order to prevent visitors from becoming too frustrated.

In addition to the maze there will be “corn cannons” that shoot ears of corn at targets of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, a barrel train for children and a sandbox filled with 4,000 lbs. of corn kernels. Portions of the maze will also be haunted for Halloween starting on Sept. 27.

Glen said he enjoys the Maze most at night, especially the ambiance of the wind blowing and rustling through the corn. However, to Glen, even the night doesn’t compare to the experience of seeing the reaction of visitors who come to “get lost” somewhere on the plains of Colo.

“As an owner, watching people smile, laugh and have fun makes me feel good,” Glen said. “We want them to enjoy the time they are here.”

The MAiZE will give visitors the chance to “get lost” Aug. 30 through Nov. 3. Their hours will be:

Monday – Tuesday: Closed

Wednesday – Thursday: 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Friday: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Sunday: noon to 8 p.m.

The MAiZE will have special hours, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Labor Day Weekend and will offer special field trips during weekends that are available by reservation. The MAiZE is located four miles south of LaSalle on Highway 85. The cost is $7 for ages 13 and up, $5 for ages 6-12 and free for kids 5 and under. Discounts are available for families, groups and field trips. For more information or to make reservations call (970) 737-2129 or visit www.cornfieldmaze.com.

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