MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Fall activities at apple orchards and pumpkin patches are big business in our state.

But the biggest and most popular attraction just may be the corn maze. It’s a little-known fact that a forward-thinking Minnesotan is responsible for introducing it to our part of the country.

Not only was Sever Peterson the first, but you also voted him the best. WCCO’s Bill Hudson tells us the story of the pioneering spirit behind Sever’s Fall Festival in Shakopee.

To stand in the middle of a cornfield on a windy autumn day can be a bit unsettling. You can hear the sound of a million corn plants whispering something in the wind, towering over you as you lose all sense of direction.

Seeing those guys disappear into the cornfield doesn’t help matters any. So it would make a great story if Sever Peterson got his idea to make Minnesota’s first corn maze from whispering corn stalks, but…

“We had exchange students from England and they were telling Sever and Sharon about the labrynths and mazes in Europe, and Sever thought, ‘Why don’t we make a maze out of corn?’ Nicola Peterson said.

severs corn maze 2 WCCO Viewers Choice For Best Corn Maze In Minnesota

(credit: CBS)

Which is still a pretty good story.

“And so we did it. And his farming family and friends thought he was nuts to think that people would come out here just to walk around in a field of corn,” Nicola said.

But much like Galileo and Einstein, history would prove Sever Peterson right.

“And that’s how it all got started, and here we are 22 years later,” Nicola said.

And 22 corn mazes later, selling autumn has become a huge business, with dozens of corn mazes all over Minnesota. But Sever’s is much more than just a corn maze.

“We are very much a fall festival,” Nicola said.

And if you were wondering, just what makes up a fall festival?

“We have two corn pits, magic shows, a petting zoo, wildlife shows, pig races, hay bale maze,” Nicola said.

Nicola Peterson knows the list of offerings by heart, because she’s been part of this operation from the get-go. She worked one of the first mazes back in the 1990s with her then boyfriend Aaron Peterson, and in keeping with the Peterson tradition, this place is very much a family affair.

“The Peterson’s have been farming in the Minnesota River Valley since the 1890s and Sever is actually the third generation and my husband is the fourth,” Nicola said.

With the goal of keeping their fall festival fresh, the fifth-generation of Peterson’s are already playing an important role.

“A lot of the inspiration we get comes from our kids. What do they want to see? Where do they spend the most time when they’re here?” Nicola said.

This year’s corn maze them is “Under the Sea,” still mapped out, planted and cultivated by hand.

“There are some dead ends in there and the kids seem to be better at orienteering the maze than the adults,” Nicola said.

So if you get turned around at Sever’s Corn Maze, don’t listen to the corn at the Best Corn Maze in Minnesota.

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