So I know that’s the worst post title ever and will probably draw all kinds of frustrated people who are doing searches about horror movies to my blog, but I couldn’t resist. After all, my children are blond. And they did spend over an hour on Friday in a corn maze at Cherry Crest Adventure Farm. Tommy joined Teddy and I for our adventure this week since he was off school.
This was no ordinary corn maze. For one thing, it covers five acres. For another, it begins with a ten-minute orientation video. It is of course possibly simply to wander around in there and eventually find the way out (we were told this takes most people about an hour). However, the maze is also broken into fifteen areas that this year have to do with the theme of alternative energy sources. In each area you are to look for a mailbox containing a game piece which you tape to a grid given to you at the entrance. When you get all of the pieces you have a map of the entire maze and can then presumably find your way out without difficulty. I say “presumably” because not once was I able to locate myself using the maps on the game pieces. The mailboxes are not the only goodies to be found either. There are various pieces of playground equipment. There are quiz questions about ethanol and solar power and industrial windmills. There is a café selling snacks including homemade kettle corn that is to die for. And there are vending machines that for a quarter dispense inscrutable clues, game pieces, or Skittles.
The maze is confusing enough, and the corn is high enough, that the management also provides visitors with giant flags. The video instructed us to stick the flags up above the corn when we needed help. The corn-maze-watcher-guy who sits in a tower in the middle of the field then comes on the PA and asks yes or no questions; you move the flag left and right or up and down accordingly to say no or yes until he has provided you the information you need.
We did find five game pieces, the café, the water cooler, and the port-a-potty, but not the exit and after an hour my kids realized that I wasn’t going to buy them any more Skittles or kettle corn and they wanted out. I really didn’t feel like waving our flag (which I realize begs the question of why I bothered to carry it) so we managed to find the tower in the center of the maze and ask for help. “I’ve got a search and rescue here,” Tower Man announced into his radio. While we waited for assistance Tommy and Teddy shouted “Go Green” over and over as directed by the sign on the small house next to us. Each time they did, much to their delight, the door would open to reveal a huge cow pie, which the sign also told us was a valuable source of methane energy.
When no one came to our aid, Tower Man (whose name was Jonathan and who was more boy than man) climbed down and led us to the exit without one wrong turn. We did not choose to have a souvenir photo taken or to have our game board laminated for five dollars. For the next three hours the kids played…
on the enormous Barnyard Jump (a huge jumping pillow),
in the hay tunnel, maze, and obstacle course,
and in the Giant Hay Chute Slide (no photos of that one as I was negotiating getting Teddy up the hill and then trying to meet him at the bottom without having to slide down myself as I’m acutely claustrophobic). It was a lovely fall day with the clearest of blue skies and we all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Even the hour-long drive up there was a pleasure: A meandering jaunt through the eastern Pennsylvania landscape complete with multiple Amish buggy sightings. Everyone who worked at Cherry Crest was kind and friendly and the place was immaculate and beautifully landscaped.
But part of me is a bit ambivalent about the trend that brings suburbanites like myself in droves to “adventure farms” like this. It’s like we all have some kind of weird nostalgia for something that never actually was. The website for Cherry Crest refers to the things to do there as “Fun Farm Activities” but to my knowledge no working farm ever had a singing chicken puppet show or huge pumpkin slingshot. This farm has an added attraction: A real live steam engine from the Strasburg Railroad passes through about every thirty minutes, chugging one way out into the Lancaster County countryside and then back again, which is of course thrilling to everyone. But surely our frugal pioneer ancestors would marvel at our desire to ride on a train that goes nowhere and the black smoke it spewed seemed a bit contradictory in the face of the Go Green theme. I guess it all just seems a little silly and I actually did have a moment inside the maze where I saw us as if from God’s perspective and could almost hear Him thinking, “Really? I gave you opposable thumbs and memory and this is what you’ve found to do with your time?” The entire outing was far from cheap (could have been cheaper if I packed a lunch – they do have picnic facilities) and during tough economic times like these I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to take the children to one of the many Amish farms in the surrounding area so that they could see just how truly backbreaking it was to grow food in the days before electricity. Now that would be an education in the true value of alternative sources of energy. I could of course do this right up the road if I was willing to drop eighteen bucks at The Amish Farm and House.
As a postscript, Tommy just came in and read the title of my post. He informed me that he likes it. And that his favorite thing about the maze was the machine that dispensed Skittles. Next time I think we’ll go to the 7-11 and save a lot of time and money.