In rural Illinois, fall means a trip through the corn maze.
A family outing to the local farm harvests acres of happy memories.
Two fun traditions exemplify fall in rural Illinois: corn mazes and pumpkin patches. Every weekend families head to a local farm to enjoy the simple pleasures of being outdoors before winter sets in. For our family, there’s no better way to spend an afternoon than at Rader Family Farms in Normal, Illinois. We put on old sweaters and shoes that don’t mind a little mud—it can get sloppy in those fields! The farm has been owned and operated by the same hardworking family for generations. The Raders started with dairy cows, then became grain farmers. Ten years ago, they added corn mazes and pumpkin patches. Today they grow 12 acres for a corn maze, plus 30 acres of pumpkins and fall plants. The Rader family wants visitors to “harvest memories,” and they succeed. Signs featuring a friendly scarecrow point the way to the food, corn mazes and attractions. Visitors set out with a map to locate the stations within the maze. Lost? Call the number on the map and the “corn cops” will find you! It’s easy to spend a few hours inside the activities area, which includes a straw castle, tire towers, corn kernel “sandboxes,” pumpkin checkers and a huge jumping pillow made for bouncing. Visitors can shoot at targets with a corn blaster. Kids under 6 love the Little Village, where farm animals and equipment teach about country life. The farm also has a 1951 pickup truck for a photo op. We always stop for fresh cider. Then it’s on to the pumpkins! While they’re already piled high for customers to easily browse and purchase, many folks prefer to pick their own, pulling a wagon into the pumpkin patch. Somehow these pumpkins seem more colorful— and much more memorable—than those lined up at our supermarket. There’s no rush here; everyone is allowed as much time as needed to choose the perfect one. Afterward, we buy decorative gourds and Indian corn. And, sometimes a dozen pumpkin doughnuts and an apple pie find their way into the basket. The temperature is cool by the time we head home, and the sun sets earlier. For us, a day at the corn maze and pumpkin patch truly means autumn has arrived.
Clockwise from top left: Aerial view of the corn maze; vintage Ford truck; a scarecrow greets visitors who finish the maze; fun in the pumpkin patch.