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Tuesday, 09 August 2011 08:20

Lethbridge Corn Maze is open for the season

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By Jamie Woodford
From an aerial view, it may look like a mysterious crop circle, but the design is actually a maze of maize — the Lethbridge Corn Maze — cut into the pattern of a compass rose, and it officially opened for its 12th season recently.

Tucked away in Shaughnessy, Theo Slingerland and his family started up the maze as a way to attract people to their small berry picking farm.

It was the first maze of its kind in Alberta, and it was a tough sell in the beginning.

“My first challenge was to explain what a corn maze was,” said Slingerland. “People were like ‘A corn maize? Like maize and corn? Isn’t it the same thing?’”

Once people got the idea, word spread fast and the maze took off.

“The first year we were just lucky. It worked out I guess, and I learned a lot just watching people,” Slingerland said. “So the way I design it, I keep everything in mind what I learned over the years.”

To start building the maze, Slingerland uses a regular ride-on lawn mower to cut out the maze’s paths while the corn is less than a foot high.

This year it took him about 30 hours to cut the compass rose, an idea inspired by his son’s homework.

“I thought it was a neat idea, everything looks similar,” he said.

The design changes every year since the corn is harvested for cattle feed at the end of the season anyway.

“Plus it gets old. So you always come up with a new idea,” Slingerland pointed out.

It can take from 20 minutes to two hours to make it through the nine-acre maze. If you get lost?

“We have a motto, ‘if you can’t find your way though, then we’ll harvest by the end of October and we’ll find you then’,” said Slingerland smiling.

He added in the centre of the maze is a tower with an employee to help guide people if needed.

Although the maze has been successful, it’s not without its challenges. Like other area farmers, wet spring weather threatened the crop.

“We planted later than other years because it was so wet, and then because of the moisture, we couldn’t grow until the last two weeks now actually,” Slingerland said. “So now it’s growing really good,but it is still behind.”

Currently the corn is shorter than years before, the tallest at seven feet, but it is still growing.

“If this weather keeps up it will be easily eight feet tall or more,” he said.

“It’s almost the same stage as last year, so in the middle of August everything was eight feet high or higher and I expect by the end of this week already for it to be that high.”

Since its humble beginnings, the maze has expanded into a full-fledged area attraction which includes a petting zoo, mini golf, hayrides, a cow train, pumpkins, and a pumpkin slingshot in October.

In September and October, people can attempt the maze at night.

“That’s always a blast,”said Slingerland, who plans to keep the corn maze going as long as people keep coming.

“If people keep coming out and enjoying it, I’ll keep doing it as well.”Through the month of August, the maze is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. In September and October, it’s open Monday to Thursday 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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