It’s hard to remember a time when corn mazes weren’t a big part of Minnesota autumn, but in reality, they’ve only been around 15 years. In fact, the only older corn maze in the U.S. is in Pennsylvania, and it’s only 16 years old.
The pioneers here in Minnesota are the Sever family, long-time local farmers who got the idea from the groundbreakers in Penn. and thought it would be fun to have a maze here. They were definitely on to something, and today, Sever’s is not only one of the oldest mazes in the country, it’s one of the biggest.
Nicola Peterson, a Sever family member by marriage, chatted with me recently about the maze. “It’s really a festival, not just a maze,” she said. “Many have no idea just how much there is to do here.”
Spread across 20 acres in Shakopee, the maze is indeed only part of the fun. There’s a straw bale maze for younger visitors, a “cornpit” with 10,000 bushels of shelled corn for maximum jumping and diving pleasure:
Live music, an exotic petting zoo, pig races, live music, and a barnyard all included in the admission price. For an extra fee, you can go down the giant slide, go on a hayride, take a pony or camel ride, make sand art, get your face painted, and feast on a wide variety of food.
Not to mention the giant pumpkin sling.
But of course, the centerpiece is the enormous maze. How does the Sever family do that?
“We brainstorm as a family with a whiteboard,” said Peterson. “Then we create a design and work with an ad agency to get it on graph paper.”
The graph is then transferred, once resized, to the field. That’s where the serious work begins.
“We hull it by hand,” said Peterson. “When it’s about four inches high, we go out and trim the pattern by hand.”
It’s not just the actual pathways that require additional farming effort.
“We have 25 miles of dripline irrigation,” she said, “so the corn grows nice and high. Because of that irrigation, it grows taller than the typical corn field.”
If you’re thinking that high corn could be intimidating for younger visitors, that’s why Sever’s has a straw bale maze that’s much shorter and gentler.
“That’s one of the things we’re most excited about,” said Peterson. “This is really a multigenerational business. It’s one of the few events in the fall where you can have grandparents, parents, teens, and young children.”
The little ones can play in the little maze, while older and more adventurous visitors can check out the big maze, or ride the camel. And they can all enjoy the cornpit.
What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.