PRODUCT Former farmland converted into labyrinths
HOW IT STARTED Brett Herbst, from Brigham Young University, designed the first one in Utah--and it caught on
JUDGMENT CALL Good, low-cost "agritainment" for outdoorsy families
Michael and Dayna Boudreau's farm in Danville, Vt., was failing. But rather than move to the city, they found a new livelihood by helping people get lost: they turned their cornfield into a maze. Now the attraction is earning almost as much money as their 200-cow dairy business once did. Cornfield mazes like theirs are cropping up everywhere. In North Carolina there's a Haunted Cornfield maze; in Camarillo, Calif., the Amazing Maize Maze. There are cowboy mazes in Colorado, crawfish mazes in Louisiana and Halloween mazes in almost every state. With an average admission cost of $7, they're a cheap way to while away an afternoon. "It's pretty good exercise," says Annie Lesko, 16, who visited Old MacDonald's Farm maze near Richmond, Va. "You're in there for hours."
Brett Herbst designed his first cornfield maze in 1996 in American Fork, Utah. It drew 18,000 people in its first three weeks. Now he designs mazes around the country for about $30,000 apiece. "I've got orders for 100 this year alone," he says. He devises the pattern for a five- or six-acre maze on a computer, plants corn that grows more than 6 ft. tall, then uses a herbicide to form the twists and turns of the design. Weather permitting, of course. A bad season can thwart plans and turn the maze into a bust. "But every year a new design can be put in the same field," says Herbst. "Clear it out and start again."
--By Anne Moffett