By Stephen Dafoe
Bon Accord – The combination of rain and sun is making for some tall corn plants at Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farms, the perfect situation for the popular tourist spot’s grand opening of their annual corn maze this Saturday. This year’s theme is Alice in Cornland, a motif that spreads the Lewis Carroll creations through seven acres of corn.
Prairie Gardens owner Tam Andersen said the decision to choose an Alice in Wonderland theme was inspired by her own love of the popular children’s book.
“I used to love reading Alice in Wonderland and just that whole thought of disappearing down the rabbit hole for the day,” she said. “It certainly appeals to my sense of playfulness anyway. It’s such a great theme to work with here on the farm because it’s very family oriented.”
The development of the new maze, like Prairie Gardens previous creations, is a season-long process, but like the recent 3D movie of Alice in Wonderland, Andersen’s Alice-themed maze is also a high-tech affair.
“We start back in the wintery months with our planning and our sketching and designs,” Andersen said, adding that she employs Precision Mazes, a Kansas-based maze company, to turn the sketches into a grid. “They plot GPS coordinates for all of the pathways in the maze.”
Once everything is mapped out and the winter snows have passed, approximately 70,000 corn seeds are sown throughout the seven acres of land that will play home to the corn maze. Once the corn begins to grow, Precision Maze sends people to the farm help get the five kilometres of pathways going.
“They have a little satellite dish in a back pack and they actually walk the maze in front of us,” Andersen said, adding the company uses the most state-of-the-art equipment available. “It’s actually accurate within six inches. They plot the whole maze out on the ground for us. We then rototil those pathways out of the maze when the corn is very short, only one or two inches tall, and then continue to keep the pathways clean through the summer time.”
Andersen explained that it takes a full day to groom the eight-foot-wide winding pathways as the corn grows up around the maze throughout the summer, climbing approximately a foot a week as the maze nears its opening weekend and children and adults prepare to descend down the rabbit hole.
But there is more to this year’s design than experiencing the joy of Carroll’s beloved characters. Andersen explained that this year’s maze is an interactive puzzle with six phases and 12 clues.
“There’s 12 secret hidden keys out there,” she said, adding the experience becomes one big adventure. “So it’s not just the walk in the corn, kind of endlessly going in pathways. It’s a bit of methodology about it.”
Andersen explained the maze takes between 40 minutes and two hours to complete, depending on how directionally gifted or challenged any individual maze-goer is. Those who grow weary of trying to solve the puzzle will have an opportunity to exit the maze through several “chicken out” exits located throughout the seven-acre maze. Additionally, Andersen said the White Rabbit portion of the maze has been designed as a standalone maze for families with younger children.
In addition to launching the annual corn maze, Andersen said the August long weekend will also be the official kickoff to the farm’s Fairy Berry Festival and the opening of the Lost Lemon Gem Mine, a new attraction where participants can sluice for gems and fossils from around the world.
The Alice in Cornland maze will remain open throughout the season for visitors to the farm. Once the season is done and the last fun seeker has passed through the maze, Prairie Gardens will use the corn to feed their cattle over the winter months.
More information on times and admission can be found here.