LEWISTOWN - From the Gingerbread House to the Gumdrop Mountain, it's hard to tell whether you're still in Mifflin County or if you've somehow been transported to Candy Land when you visit Theresa Snyder and James White's Corn Maze just off Ferguson Valley Road in Granville Township.
Visitors to this year's corn maze should come ready to play. "We try to make a game out of it," Snyder said. "This year, the game is 'Questions.'"
At the Gingerbread House, each visitor chooses a set of questions with themes ranging from ice cream to general trivia. Each question corresponds with a sign post located inside the maze. Choosing the correct answer to a question sends a traveler on the shortest path to the next sign post. Incorrect answers will take a person the long way or the wrong way, making the maze longer, or leading to a dead end.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Theresa Snyder helped to create a ‘Candy Land’ themed corn maze in Ferguson Valley for the fall season. In addition to the maze, guests can play a multitude of other games and pick pumpkins from the pumpkin patch.
There are other stops along the way as well, some with activities and some with opportunities for photos. The thrones of King and Queen Kandy, for example, are giant wooden chairs built as a project for the maze by the building trades students at the Mifflin-Juniata Career and Technology Center. Maze-goers are welcome to take a seat and pose for a photo, provided they can climb onto the oversized chairs.
At the end of the maze, visitors take on new identities and play a live-action version of the popular Hasbro children's game, negotiating their way around a life-sized game board, past the Peppermint Forest and finally across the Rainbow Bridge to Candy Castle.
The magical transformation from cornfield to confectionery wonderland doesn't happen overnight. Each year for the past three years, the April corn planting marked the beginning of the family's creative journey to autumn. "People pay thousands and thousands of dollars for another company to do their mazes for them. We have opted not to do that. We have opted to keep it simple, design it and cut it out ourselves," Snyder said.
The self-funded project begins around their kitchen table, amid protests and groans from their children. White's sons Adam, 16, and Sam, 14, and three of Snyder's four children, Loren, 20, Ben, 12, and Sarah, 10, are called upon to provide designs for that year's theme, which Snyder and White determine for them. From the drawings, the maze is configured using bits of this design and parts of that design, until the final plan falls into place.
Then White, a plant manager for Glenn O. Hawbaker by day, gets to work. "He's the engineer," Snyder said. "He maps the field and looks at the corn growth patterns." Then he plots out the maze, sometimes even using a measuring tape and string, and cuts the corn as needed with a zero-turn mower. Dead spots where no corn grows become in-maze features like this year's Licorice Lagoon, a rope maze in the middle of the cornfield.
At first, the idea of the corn maze and pumpkin patch was a way for White and Snyder to maximize the use of the farmland, bridging a seasonal gap many farmers face. "I had always wanted to plant Christmas trees, and Theresa thought a corn maze would connect the farming and Christmas seasons nicely," White said. "It is difficult to sustain a small farm just growing crops." White and Snyder are also planning for the future, noting that a time will come when both of them will have more free time.
The initial idea, hatched three years ago, quickly became something more. "We also wanted to offer something to the community where they don't have to go to Lancaster for some entertainment," White added. Located four miles from Burnham and loaded with activities and props, the corn maze offers just that.
Snyder comes up with the ideas for props herself. "The props are just our own creativity," Snyder said. Her creativity shows; Peppermint Forest is constructed of PVC, plastic foam, red tape and paint. The maze's signature road marker along Ferguson Valley Road is a giant pumpkin made of one round hay bale, covered in plastic and painted orange. When it comes to painting, White and Snyder are not alone. White's mother, Marcy Fisher, is often found with brush in hand during the summer and serves as the maze's greeter when it is open.
Together, they work from April until mid-September, when it is time to open the maze. The maze opens Fridays at 4 p.m. and Saturdays at noon and closes at dark. On special weekends, the maze is open until 10 p.m. Flashlight Nights and Moonlight Mazes happen when there is a new moon or a full moon. The maze will continue to operate until the first weekend in November. Group discounts are available for parties of 10 or more that make reservations in advance.
The maze is not the only activity the couple's venture offers. Participants also have access to pedal tractors, a haybale maze, hayrides and cupcake decorating. Super Shooters, oversized slingshots, can be loaded with apples, walnuts or gourds and aimed at targets safely placed on the opposite side of the cornfield. There's a Hoppy Horse Track too, where people can try their luck at bouncing around a track on a horse that looks strangely like a giant rubber ball with reins.
For more information on the maze and its activities, visit atthebarnyard.com or call 363-0160.