Maize Runner…

Family business becomes seasonal tradition

A crop of corn has been grown, and the Simpson family has prepared a new, challenging maze for the public on their farm.

Every year since 2001, James and Patti Simpson have created a unique type of entertainment for people of all ages to enjoy during the fall. For those not interested in walking through The Corn Maize, they have plenty more to offer. The hayride, cow train, shots with the corn cannon, a barnyard filled with farm animals, a hay bale maze, and scrumptious food  all contribute to one of the most memorable and exciting experiences one can ever imagine.

Also, families with younger children wanting to explore the maze can choose an easier route called the Fairy Tale Trail. This is a smaller maze that includes storyboards to read along the way. If the kids want to explore the big and mighty corn maze, but mom and dad are too tired, then feel free to stop at the halfway mark and take a break!

At’l Do Farms, owned by the Simpsons, is located in Shallowater, Texas. The Corn Maize, now in its 15th season, is closed on Mondays, but open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, and 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays. Horse rides are offered on Saturdays and Sundays until dusk for $5. Hayrides are also available, with one leading to a pumpkin patch where participants can pick pumpkins ranging from $1 to $15. The other hayride to Pumpkin Hollow begins as soon as the sun sets. More than 150 carved pumpkins are on the trail to see. Campfires are also available to reserve for $30.

Both of the owners grew up from a family of farmers. However, they wanted their crops to be used for something more than just corn to eat.

“We were looking to diversify,” says James Simpson.

He explained that the idea came from a place in Utah that they discovered in a magazine. With the help from the farmers in Utah, the first maze design was a windmill. The Simpsons come up with the design they want, and then they send it to the maze company in Utah to come up with a graph pattern for them to follow in order to create a maze in the corn.

After the first year with the Maize, something new was added the following years. The pumpkin patch came around the second year, the corn cannon the third, and the barrel cow train the fourth. They have had the barnyard with animals for three years, and started hosting weddings two years ago during offseason. A concession stand is open during the fall that includes the well-known roasted corn. They make this corn themselves, and James Simpson said that it is his favorite, although it can definitely get old after a while.

This year’s design, based on the painting of American Gothic by Grant Wood,  is James’s favorite out of them all. He says that he also looks forward to meeting people every year.

“It’s gotten a lot bigger than I ever thought it would,” said Simpson, who added that it has become a tradition and livelihood.

During a recent October weekend, some visitors were attending for the first time, while others were there for their second time this season. The Batista family was attending for the first time ever. The two parents brought along their younger son and daughter, Sophia. Sophia said that she enjoyed going through the Maize, shooting the corn cannon, and riding on the horses. She was excited to let her parents know that the horse’s name was Jack, and that he was an old horse.

“You get to find your way, and it helps you get smart,” said Sophia of the Maize. Sophia’s parents said they were looking forward to coming back again in a few weeks with their other son.

At the end of the Maize, a couple, Sarah and Dalton, had just completed the maze for the first time during their first visit to At’l Do Farms. They took a picture to capture the memorable moment of conquering the challenging maze. Both of them are from Corpus Christi, but Sarah attends Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. She heard about the Maize from other students on campus and decided to bring Dalton along the way to try it out. Both of them were smiling ear to ear as they were on their way to catch the hayride to the pumpkin patch.

A group of high school kids from the Pirate Band at Cooper High School were gathering near the pond and windmill. Most of them planned on coming separately, but found each other as they arrived. Most of the students enjoyed the Maize or the roasted corn from the concession stand the best. Some used to come with family as a yearly tradition, but as they got older they decided to spread the tradition by including friends from school. They encourage people to make their way out to At’l Do Farms.

If you worry about getting lost in the Maize, do not fret! At the very beginning, mailboxes hold different themed passports and a map to help guide you through. There are different passports provided for a variety of age groups. They all have numbers 1 through 10 that ask questions. It is advised to refer to each number as you find it in the maze. Whichever answer you choose will tell you your next steps from that number on the corn. The different themes of the passports are Tiny Tots, Girl Scouting, Movies/Music/TV, Scriptural, and Sports, among others. No matter your area of knowledge, the number marks and questions are there to help!

Admission into the Maize is $10. Children age 4 and younger get in free. Any senior citizen or anyone with a college or military ID receives $2 off the admission fee.

Make your way to At’l Do Farms before you miss your chance at an experience of a lifetime! The maze and other fun activities will close for the season after Nov. 14, 2015, and will not open again until next fall.

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