Fall is just around the corner, and a sure sign of that is corn mazes beginning to open.
The corn maze has become a popular form of family entertainment, and those that have incorporated a scary, nighttime ‘fright version’ have become extremely popular with young adults.
The Fritzler Corn Maze near LaSalle, Colo., is the original corn maze in northern Colorado. There are 50 acres of the Fritzler family farm dedicated to the corn maze, pumpkin patch and surrounding attractions. The maze itself has grown to over 15 acres.
The Fritzler maze began in 2000 when Glen and Pam Fritzler were convinced they had the perfect location on U.S. 85. The Fritzler family has been in the corn maze business for 13 years now, and their corn maze had more than 20,000 visitors last year.
The maze is only a small part of the Fritzler farm.
“We are true farmers,” Glen said. “My family has lived and farmed here since 1956, and I was born on the farm in 1957. I’m a third generation farmer here. The corn maze is a year-round business. Besides the maze and the employees, there is the advertising, vendor contracts, promotion, displays and all the rest of the paperwork.”
“We don’t farm thousands of acres like some of our neighbors,” he added. “But with the onions and the corn maze and everything else, we have enough on our plate to keep us busy. We grow winter wheat that helps to bring the nutrients back to our fields. We grow transplant onions — reds, whites, and yellows — and then we have green corn, silage corn and sweet corn.”
By using transplant onions, Fritzler can harvest early and not have to take time away from the corn maze.
“Transplant onions are started from seed in Arizona, and they grow to about the size of a pencil, then they’re harvested and shipped to us in late March or early April, and then we transplant them into the soil up here.” Fritzler said. “The advantages are that the onions get harvested a little bit earlier. If we were to direct seed up here, the harvest time would be September or October. If we do it transplant, we can start harvesting in July.”
“We’re very excited about getting the corn maze opened up, the brand-new design and all the new attractions that we have out here, including the pig races, the zip line, the quad bungee jump, and the ropes course,” he added. “We also have two brand-new haunts that we are doing. We couldn’t be more excited about this year’s opening.”
The opening almost didn’t happen. Like everything else related to farming, the corn maze is at the mercy of the weather.
“The severe weather — the flooding, and the hail that came through on Aug. 3, missed us, literally by a few feet,” he said. “The flood missed us by two miles. We feel extremely, extremely fortunate. The hail would have ruined everything — the beautiful pumpkin patch that we have out here would have been totally gone. The maze would have been ruined. Everything would’ve been a total loss.”
For the maze design this year, Glen and Pam Fritzler chose the American eagle with a tear in its eye.
“We chose this design to depict not only what the eagle stands for, but also to commemorate all the senseless violence and hardships that Americans have endured this past year,” Glen said. “Whether it is violence, weather-related, or the economy, America and its people are never broken.”
The 10-foot high maze is very intricate and — with only one entrance and only one exit — will challenge those who enter it. In between there are more two miles of twists, turns and dead ends. The average person that enters Fritzler’s maze will wander for more than an hour.
If you get completely lost, there are guides that walk through the maze that will get you back on the right track.
The exact details of how a corn maze is made are closely held secretes, but Fritzler did share some generalities.
“We design the maze on a computer and then use grid maps to make the pattern,” he said. “One line on the grid map represents one row of corn. When the corn is still fairly young, we put out flags as guide lines, and start cutting away. We actually remove the corn with herbicide. It takes about five days to cut the pattern. The paths are roto-tillered, smoothed and packed about a week before opening day.”
Besides the family entertainment of the corn maze and attractions, Glen Fritzler and his son, Trevor, have special areas for people that want things a little scarier. Fritzler’s Scream Acres — filled with special effects, mechanical engineering, and eerie sound technology — is the haunted attraction Colorado haunt-goers have enjoyed for many years, and look forward to each fall.
A new interactive haunt has been added this year. The Ghost Hunt takes place in an abandoned ghost town filled with cutting-edge special effects. About the new haunt, Trevor says, “it’s theatrical. The technology is way up there. There are video holograms, sound and explosions. It’s pretty impressive.”
“If you are looking for something new this year, not only do we have new activities up front and the new Ghost Hunters haunt, but we also took Scream Acres to a new level and made it interactive as well,” Trevor added. “I think this year is going to be our best year for the activities. If you are looking for a good family time, come out and join in the fun. If you are looking for a good scare, come out and see the new haunt and the changes we made to Scream Acres. If you are not here, you are going to miss out on things that no one else in the world has. It’s going to be cool.” ❖
For more information, contact the Fritzler Corn Maze at (970) 737-2199, or go to www.fritzlermaze.com.