PERU – Time to get lost.
Rulfs Orchard’s Corn Maze, a ten-year tradition of family-owned agribusiness, is open for the fall season.
Explorers looking to try their luck in the labyrinth travel a dirt road lined with cornstalks winding through a three-acre cornfield in search of the exit. Scattered around the labyrinth are several podiums on which visitors can stamp a booklet, showing that they have successfully reached each checkpoint.
Rulfs business manager Shannon Wilkins said not all guests pay attention to checkpoints, calling those who make maze enthusiasts “hardcore”.
“There are people who come running and want to go out; they will see the way out and go,” she said. “These people probably take 30 minutes. But to do the whole maze, it usually takes less than an hour.”
The orchard has grown since Bob Rulf, Wilkins’ grandfather, opened it in 1952.
Its huge red barn building at 531 Bear Swamp Road serves as a store, selling seasonal produce, homemade breakfasts and desserts, local gift items and more. The store is accompanied by farm animals, a play area and greenhouses, as well as its seasonal U-pick offerings, like apples, pumpkins and berries.
“It’s generational,” Wilkins said of the business, noting families picking pumpkins in the field, kids visiting farm animals, teens taking Instagram photos among apple trees and the young at heart. wandering the corn maze.
“Young children, teens, college kids, parents, seniors, there is something fun to do.”
THOUSANDS ARE PARTICIPATING
Just a decade ago, Wilkins said his grandfather decided to add the maze.
“He was just interested and said, ‘We have to do this. “”
Although some say corn mazes date back to the 18th century, Wilkins said they were not regionally prevalent in the 2010s.
“You read a lot, get a lot of magazines to see what other people are doing across the country,” she said. “I think we were one of the first here to have a maze.”
It’s said to be a new way for farmers to pay their bills, and with over 3,900 pairs of feet crossing that of Peru in 2019, Wilkins thought it was a real draw.
“Agrotourism has grown a lot everywhere, I think, over the past 10 years.
NEW YEAR, NEW LABYRINTH
No maze in Rulfs Orchard is ever the same.
The path, made up of several branches and numerous dead ends, is cut every year and, from an aerial view, displays images representative of the theme of the year.
A look down into the maze of 2021 would reveal the outlines of a bee, a hummingbird, various flowers and the letters RULFS.
The theme? Pollinators.
“We try to stick to farm-related things,” Wilkins said. “The pollinators this year were genuine to us. Pollination is so important to farmers and it seems more and more people are now aware of it.”
MAKE A LABYRINTH
But how are these intricate designs cut in the cornfield? Wilkins said the process begins in January when Rulfs selects his annual theme.
Unlike other orchards in the area that sketch designs by hand, Rulfs works with a company that provides them with a booklet of themes to choose from.
At the end of June, the corn is planted all over the field, and once it starts to come out of the ground, a contractor from Virginia comes to the site to cut up the selected pattern before it grows too high.
“It does the GPS cutout; everything is preprogrammed,” Wilkins said. “It only takes him a few hours.
Wilkins called August a “time of crisis” for the maze as staff clear their paths of obstacles like boulders, set up podium checkpoints and ribbons off their aisles. .
“It’s really to try to encourage people not to run around and break the corn stalks,” she explained. “You want it to be the same quality in late November as it was in September.”
In light of concerns over last year’s COVID-19, Rulfs has switched to selling tickets online.
This kept the number of guests in the maze at a given time limited and reduced pressure on staff during days of staff shortages, Wilkins said.
“We have decided to continue like this this year,” she said, adding that a maximum of 140 guests would be allowed in the maze at a time.
“It never really gets crazy, except maybe during the nighttime flashlight mazes.”
Two corn mazes are scheduled for the night this year on October 16 and 23 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. with the last tickets sold at 8 p.m. Otherwise the labyrinth is open Monday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the last tickets sold at 3 p.m.
Admission is free for children 3 and under, $ 5 for children 5 to 12 and $ 7 for all 13 and over. There is a $ 1 fee for tickets sold online.
They can be purchased here: rulfsorchard.ticketspice.com/pollinators-theme-corn-maze
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