NEWPORT | A stroll into Garner’s Corn Maze may not be for the directionally challenged.
“If you try to go in there without a map and locate those six points, then you are going to be in there a long time, a long time,” said Clayton Garner. “We have had a few younger kids that kind of got separated from their parents. There’s a lot of intersections and stuff.”
The six-acre labyrinth of stalks had its fall opening last weekend off U.S. 70 in Newport.
It is part of Garner’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch, which is a collaborative project put together by Garner, his wife Sherri, Garner’s Landscaping and Plant Stand and EJW Outdoors, of Morehead City.
Visitors are sent into the six-acre labyrinth of eight-foot-tall corn stalks with an aerial photo and a map of the pathways. At six checkpoints, they can punch the cards to note their location.
“It’s like reading a roadmap,” said Clayton Garner, who swears it is possible to work through the maze in about 10 minutes.
But wife Sherri Garner is not as confident.
“It took me forever to find number one, because I missed this turn,” she said. “One is tricky.”
This is the second year that the Garners have had a maze. Last year they cut it themselves.
“It wasn’t as extravagant, but it worked,” said Sherri Garner.
This year, the Garner’s hired an Idaho company, MazePlay, to cut the design.
“That’s what they do,” said Sheriff Garner. “They come from Idaho and they cut corn mazes. They work their way across the United States cutting corn mazes and then work their way back to Idaho.”
It’s the way it needs to be done, Clayton Garner said.
“If you can visualize it, then they can cut it so it doesn’t matter what the picture looks like or what you want it to say they can make it work,” he said. “If you’ve got corn or Sorghum Sudan grass or whatever it is you are using as your maze and you’ve got a good stand, literally, they could cut your face out in there and you would know it was you. It’s that good.”
This year’s design features the EJW Outdoors logo in the middle with a marlin jumping on the left hand side and a deer with a big rack of horns on the other. One trail in the maze is 2.5 miles worth and there is another smaller trail that is .4 miles long.
The MazePlay team comes and cuts the stand with a tractor and tillers using a GPS.
The day after the cutting the Claytons watched with amazement as they viewed the finished maze from a camera carried aloft by a drone.
“We’re watching it live on the little TV screen and as that drone went up, sure enough, I couldn’t believe it. It was fascinating,” said Clayton Garner. “That really got my brain spinning that if you can visualize it, they can make it.”
The Garners decided to create the maze as a means of broadening their seasonal business and bringing more revenue into the farm.
“We’re just trying to add some diversity and some other income because with grain prices the way they are right now, we’re not farming a lot of land,” said Clayton Garner. “We’re also trying to provide something for the community that families can come out and enjoy and participate in.”
Of the 300 acres encompassing the 75-year-old, third-generation farm, about 260 are cultivated with asparagus, strawberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, watermelons, cucumbers, squash, broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes and other vegetables to be sold in the farm’s produce stand.
About 20 acres are tied up in the maze, a pumpkin patch, and an activity area. Other activities include corn kernel pit, a fossil pit, a tire mountain with a pipe slide, for the older kids we have human foosball, yard games and a pumpkin chunkin’ trebuchet.
“They get to go to the pumpkin patch for a hayride to pick out a small pumpkin out of the field,” said Sherri Garner. “We kind of rotate them in the little schedules. One group will go get a hay ride. The next group will play in the corn pits, the next group will go in the corn maze. We kind of just rotate them through our activity center.”
The maze is open to school groups in the week and to individuals during the weekends.
“Last year at least half of our schools were from Onslow County,” said Clayton Garner.
This year 29 schools have signed up to visit from Craven, Pamlico and Carteret and Onslow counties.
The entry fee to Garner’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch is $11 for ages 11 and up.
Children age 4 to 10 is $8. Kids 3 and under are free with a paying adult. Military discounts of $1 off are available for family members. Those 65 and older get in free with a paying ticket.
Garner’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch is located at 5878 Arendell St. next to the Newport Flea Mall. It is open Fridays from 4 to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 7 p.m. through Oct. 30. For information, call 252-223-5283.