Farmers grow fun in their fieldsAn arial view of Jonamac Orchard's state of Illinois corn maze.
Farmers across Illinois are growing more than just corn on the cob these days. They're growing family entertainment in the form of huge corn mazes.
"It's a great daytime event for families," says Kevin McArtor, one of four owners of Jonamac Orchard in Malta, Ill., 72 miles west of Chicago. "You have no idea where you're at when you're walking around in there." The McArtors have been carving mazes into their cornfields for four years. This year, the maze is in the shape Illinois to commemorate the release of the state quarter and to recognize the state's involvement in the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Every year, the orchard has a game to keep participants on their toes. Known as the passport system, mazegoers answer questions on a topic of their choice-sports, history or geography. At various intersections is a question with a series of answers: answer correctly and learn the right path; answer incorrectly and get lost.
This year, the maze has a new twist: Each participant receives an Illinois passport to test their state knowledge. Arranged geographically, mazegoers are instructed to find six locations along the route-Chicago, the Sangamon River, DeKalb County, Grand Detour, Camp River Dubois and Kaskaskia. The significance of each site is explained along with a hole-punch at each post. Reach all six points-and gather punches to prove it-and turn in your passport for a prize.
The Jonamac Orchard maze is open through Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to sunset Sundays. Bring a flashlight on Friday and Saturday for "Flashlight Night" and try the maze by moonlight. Beginning Oct. 17, the maze takes on a graveyard effect and ghosts haunt the night. Admission is $6 for adults, $ 4 for kids 6-12 and free for children 5 and under. (815) 825-2158.
You can get lost in other corn mazes as well.
• Butterprint Farm in Monee. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays Oct. 1 through Oct. 30; $5 for adults, $3 for kids 5 and up. (708) 534-8801.
• Land of Oz in Ottawa. 4 p.m. to dark Fridays and 1 p.m. to dark Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 31; $3, with all proceeds going to the local Campfire Boys and Girls group. (815) 434-2103.
• Richardson Farms in Spring Grove. 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 3 to 10 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 9 p.m. on Sundays through Nov. 1; $7.50 for adults; $5 for seniors and children 5-12. Group rates available for groups over 20. (815) 675-9729.
-- Ashley Ernst