From 19

The Day - Sound & Country - - WALKING, CYCLING AND PADDLING -


Cre­at­ing the mazes is costly and time con­sum­ing.

The Orrs and Grabareks be­gin think­ing about the next maze even be­fore the cur­rent sea­son ends.

Over the past 11 years the maze at Pre­ston Farms has be­come more elab­o­rate. Bor­row­ing the idea from a farm in Penn­syl­va­nia he vis­ited a dozen years ago, Grabarek thought he’d cre­ate his own maze to bring at­ten­tion to the farm.

The first year the maze was fine, but prob­a­bly not elab­o­rate enough for vis­i­tors, he says. There wasn’t a game and peo­ple made it through the maze in about a half hour.

So Grabarek be­gan cre­at­ing games and themes to go along with the maze. He built two bridges for peo­ple to climb so they can get a bet­ter view of the trails.

Now it can take up to three hours to get through the maze if a per­son does it by him or her­self. On av­er­age, Grabarek says, about half the peo­ple exit the maze through the en­trance be­cause they get so lost. Un­de­terred they go back in hop­ing to com­plete their task.

This year’s theme is Amer­i­can Leg­ends; the maze is cut out as Paul Bunion and Babe the Blue Ox. Grabarek pur­chased a team of oxen last year and they will be pas­tured close to the maze in keep­ing with the theme.

Grabarek falls back on his ba­sic high school ge­om­e­try to cre­ate the grid he’ll use to cut out the maze.

He uses un­charged elec­tric fence wire to cre­ate the grids in the un­planted corn fields and fence posts to plot out where the trails should run through the corn. He uses a string trim­mer to cut a small path at first, but as the corn grows he widens the path and be­gins to shape it.

In the end, Grabarek says, the maze al­ways pays for it­self, with a lit­tle left over for rou­tine main­te­nance on the bridges and shed.

For the Orr fam­ily it costs about $10,000 just to build the maze each year. Much of that goes to sup­plies, such as corn, Plex­i­glas, game sheets, the video and sup­port­ing sound sys­tem and a GPS sys­tem that helps to cut out the maze each year.

Vis­i­tors to Fort Hill can watch a video about the maze and try the smaller, chil­dren’s sized maze be­fore en­ter­ing the larger maze to see if they are up for the chal­lenge. They are given a four­page game sheet with the an­swers hid­den in the maze.

If there are any rules, pos­si­bly the most sig­nif­i­cant one is that guests treat the mazes with re­spect. They are part of work­ing farms, not sep­a­rate en­ter­tain­ment venues, so guests are asked to leave them in the con­di­tion in which they are found.

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