Orchard weaves second corn maze

By Beth Oltmanns

The Jonamac Orchard, six miles west of DeKalb, provides a place for the surrounding community to lose themselves.

In addition to apples, the orchard contains a nine-acre corn maze with nearly three miles of pathways. This is the second year the Jonamac Orchard has had a corn maze of this size.

“We were surprised by how well it went last year,” said Kevin McArtor, co-owner of Jonamac Orchard.

The idea for a large-scale maze took shape after the orchard attempted to create several smaller mazes beginning in 1994, McArtor said.

McArtor, along with his wife, sketched a design for the maze in the spring and then sent it to maze designer Brett Herbst of Orem, Utah. Herbst took the sketch and made a grid of it

for McArtor to follow.

Herbst’s company, The MAiZE, has created 100 mazes since it began in 1996, according to the company’s Web site.

The corn for the maze is planted in May to look like lines on a grid. The design made by Herbst matches the row counts on the field, McArtor said.

In June, the corn is taken out to create the pathways for the maze. Aerial photographs showed a few missed spots, McArtor said.

Preparations to get the maze ready for the public include putting in bridges, cutting down leaves from corn stalks and lots of hoeing.

“It takes weeks and weeks of work to get it ready for the season,” McArtor said.

The orchard’s grand opening was Sept. 1. DeKalb resident Sandra Lathrop, who visited last year’s maze, brought her kids to the opening.

“The kids really loved going through the maze,” she said.

Her 2-year-old son, Brandon, gave his own response.

“I like it,” he said.

The choice is given at the start of the maze to either go through without help or take one of four maps. The four themes of the maps are interactive, star navigation, millennium and corn. There are 10 questions, one for each check point in the maze.

Samantha Meacham, 6, of Franklin Grove was the navigator for her group. She said that “finding all the numbers” was the most fun for her.

The correct path can be walked in 30 minutes, but most people take an hour to walk through the 600-foot apple tree made of eight-foot high corn.

“Some are walking right through it and others are having trouble,” McArtor said.

The maze is open Thursday through Sunday with varying hours. To find hours, directions and a coupon for $1 off admission to the corn maze, go to the Jonamac Orchard Web site at www.jonamacorchard.com. Herbst’s MAiZE Web site can be found at www.cornfieldmaze.com.