Who knew those delicious little yellow kernels were so versatile? Kids may not know it, but maize-better known as corn-can be a vegetable, starch, sweet or buttery treat. They can find it at corn roasts, family barbecues, on the cob, on the grill, in a husk, in a stalk and in a can. Chances are your kids have tasted corn's ubiquitous flavor in Kellogg's Corn Flakes, movie-theater popcorn or cornbread. In honor of Illinois' role as the heart of the corn belt, Chicago Parent has compiled a list of corn-related activities near and far for you and the kids.
There are many around the state, but here are a few suggestions.
Green Acres Farm. Get lost in a cornfield in Pekin Sept. 18-Oct. 31. There are 16 acres of mazes for kids to explore. Prices are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and kids ages 4-12. Check Web site for hours, which vary, and prices. Call (866) FUN-MAZE or visit www.thegreenacres farm.net.
Kuipers Family Farm. Start a yearly family tradition of running through a cornfield maze in Maple Park. Visit the Amazing Maize Maze and Cornstalk Cavern. Open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday through the end of October. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday November-December. Call (815) 827-5200 or visit www.kuipersfamilyfarm.com.
Sandy Pine Elk Farm. In Deer Grove, nearly two hours directly west of Chicago. Open Sept. 1-Oct. 31. Navigate through corn and soy mazes and hear the bugling of elks. Let the kids try the new wagon train rides. The best part comes 6-10 p.m. Oct. 20-21 and 27-28-flashlight nights in the maze. Call (815) 438-2463 or visit www.sandypineelkfarm.biz.
OK, so cornrows aren't food. This hairstyle divides wearers' hair into braided sections close to the scalp that are arranged like rows of corn. Some salons specialize in this creation. This school year, let kids try a new hairstyle.
Yacine Hair Braiding. Cornrows run $50-$80, depending on hair length. This Bellwood store is open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Call (708) 547-8232 for an appointment.
Panache Hair Designs. Price is $90, depending on hair length and style. This Oak Park shop is open 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday by appointment only. Call (708) 386-8836 or visit www.panachecorp.com.
Corn Productions at the Cornservatory. A Chicago theater with "corn" in it-who knew? The Cornservatory seats up to 60 people. Not to be missed is its Halloween-inspired show, "Don't Turn Out the Lights 2: The Return of Scruffy Muffelkiss," starting Sept. 23 and running for eight weeks. Shows are 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. This kid-co-authored show is recommended for ages 5 years and older. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids 12 and under. Box office accepts cash only. Call (312) 409-6435 or visit www.corn servatory.org.
No story about corn could be complete without popcorn. This snack might be salty, but it packs more fiber than many other junk foods.
Garrett Popcorn Shops. There are five Garrett locations in Chicago. Grab the Chicago mix-a combination of cheese and caramel popcorn. A small bag is $4.68, a jumbo is $13.75. Store hours for Garrett at 2 W. Jackson Blvd. are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. Call (312) 360-1108 or visit www.garrettpopcorn.com.
Pick up a bag or two from your local grocery store and celebrate Halloween in style. Kids will love these sweet, sticky treats.
Leftover corn on the cob? Cut it right off and make tasty corn muffins, corn casseroles or corn fritters. For ideas and recipes, visit www.epicurious.com, www.cooks.com and www.bettycrocker.com.
Julie Liotine is a senior in journalism at Roosevelt University in Chicago and a Chicago Parent intern.