Fritzler’s corn maze pays tribute to ailing friend of the family
Fritzler’s Acres opens at 11 a.m. Saturday. The haunted half of the maze opens at 5 p.m. on Sept 26. The maze is open on weekends until Oct. 15, and then Wednesday-Sunday until Nov. 1. Cost ranges from individual attractions for $1 each to $55 for season passes or the VIP super haunted combo tickets that advance the holder to the front of all lines. This year’s attraction features the zombie paintball bus for the third year as well as several new attractions, including a human hamster wheel. The haunted maze has added a nuclear meltdown and more clowns. For a complete schedule and prices, go to http://www.fritzlermaze.com. To get there, take U.S. Hwy 85 south past LaSalle. The maze is on the west.
For 15 years, Glen Fritzler has opened his yearly corn maze south of LaSalle to myriad emotions. The maze that has become one of Colorado’s premier fall events has prompted laughter, excitement and even fear.
However, it has never induced sorrow — until Wednesday.
There weren’t many dry eyes at the farm’s sneak peak event as Fritzler talked about the inspiration behind this year’s “Everyday Hero” theme.
The maze, which features cutouts of a police officer, a soldier and a firefighter, also features a man and woman who until Wednesday were unnamed.
“That is you and Floyd,” Fritzler said to Betty Mares about the man and woman cutouts on either side of the other heroes.
Fritzler was holding back his own tears thinking about what Betty’s husband, Floyd Mares, has meant to him since the two met at Fritzler’s produce stand in 1999.
“You deserve it,” he said to the 79-year-old, who soaking wet doesn’t top 100 pounds, his body down to mere bones from the cancer raging inside. “You are my hero.”
Fritzler first met Mares when he started coming to his produce stand, buying up the corn Fritzler had left over.
About seven years ago, Fritzler learned Mares was taking the corn he was buying and handing it out to less fortunate families.
“I stopped charging him when I found out,” Fritzler said. “He is just such a special man.”
It wasn’t until recently, however, that Fritzler learned Mares was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After six months of chemotherapy and radiation, doctors have done all they can, and he is currently under hospice care. He has not been given long to live.
“We’re praying for a miracle,” said Mares’ wife of 56 years, Betty. “He goes nowhere, this is good for him. It is awesome. I am just so very proud of him.”
Betty said the children in the trailer parks Floyd would visit would come running when they saw him.
“It got to the point they knew when he was coming,” she said. “They would shuck the corn right there and eat it raw.”
Fritzler said he had already decided on the heroes theme and had picked out the silhouettes of a soldier, policeman and fireman, but he wasn’t sure how to represent the teacher, the parent or the grandparent, so he decided to use generic woman and man figures.
He did know immediately after he heard the prognosis that this year’s maze would be dedicated to Floyd, who was a farmer in the Gilcrest area when he first married and then worked for Best Way Paving for 28 years before he retired 17 years ago,
“I saw Floyd at a farmers market and told him, ‘The maze this year is you,’” Fritzler said. “When I showed him the picture he just cried. I told him I couldn’t have been more serious. My everyday hero is Floyd. He has always done for other people and put others first.”
Floyd and Betty were crying again when the helicopter that gave them the aerial view landed.
Betty said Floyd’s caring and sharing attitude began long before he started giving away the corn. For as long as she can remember, he carried candy and 50-cent pieces that he handed out to children at stores and restaurants.
At Thanksgiving and Christmas, Mares would buy meals for those dining at Golden Coral. He always had something in the works to make life better for others, those who knew him said.
“He is giving constantly, even right up to getting sick,” said Sharon Warter, a family friend. “He would get whatever he could and go pass it out.”
Floyd said when he retired, his plans were to help the elderly and it just snowballed from there.
“I always thought I was going to run out,” he said. “But I always seemed to have just enough for everyone who needed it.”
Floyd said he won’t stop praying to get better. He’s not ready to give up life just yet. Just two weeks ago, he said, angels came to him while he slept and told him a miracle was about to happen.
“I had lost all my taste buds, and I was in so very much pain there were days I just couldn’t stand it,” he said. “But I’ve gotten stronger and my sense of taste is back. I’m feeling much better.”
Regardless, Floyd said this was one day he will never forget.
“This is just too much,” Floyd said through tears. “Glen is No. 1, too.”
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