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Every little rustle can set your imagination on fire when the sun has set and you are lost in a maze of corn stalks.

But with family and friends, flashlights and a bright shining moon, it's fun to let your imagination run wild.

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On Friday, Sept. 25 the Carroll County Agriculture Center will open its corn maze for its sixth consecutive year.

The maze will open weekends from Sept. 25 through Nov. 1. Friday hours will be 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday hours will be 2 to 9 p.m.; and Sunday hours will be 1 to 6 p.m.

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Nichole Porter, business manager for the Carroll County Agriculture Center and this year's corn maze manager, said more than 1,000 people come through annually, with Saturdays being the busiest maze nights.

"As we get closer to Halloween, attendance goes up and our last three or four weekends will give us our larger numbers," she said.

The maze attracts a lot of families especially, she said.

"Teenagers seem to find it a lot more fun at night. I think families like it because it gets them all outside and away from technology," she said.

Porter said the maze has a different theme annually; this year's theme is Farming Past and Present. Visitors to the maze will get a pamphlet with questions based on the theme. The answers can be found throughout the maze.

"The answers are on laminated sheets hung on T-posts in many areas of the maze, even dead-end spots," Porter said with a laugh. "We've made it so you must touch just about every bit of the trails to find all the answers."

Porter said questions mostly center on statistics about the differences in farming now compared to in the 1800s. She said the questions might include something like how many acres were planted by farmers in the 1800s compared to now, as well as questions on farming techniques.

Visitors who answer all the questions correctly can enter into a raffle that Porter said will be drawn around Nov. 2. The winner gets an annual pass to the Farm Museum and a gift certificate to Bullock's restaurant in Westminster.

"This will give them another special family night out and a year pass for visits to the Farm Museum," she said.

A lot of special groups come to the maze, too, Porter said.

That's because the center offers a group rate for 10 or more people and will even offer an alternative non-weekend night to groups of 20 or more.

For several years, New Windsor resident and former Scout mom Missy Marlin has reserved a group night, bringing Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and a Venture Crew to visit the corn maze.

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This year she will be bringing scouts from Cub Pack 582, the New Windsor Girl Scout Cluster — which includes Daisy Scouts, Brownies and all upper level Girl Scouts — as well as Special Needs Venture Crew 1778. Families from each group are invited to come along with their scouts.

This year they plan to visit on a Thursday evening, and Marlin said she expects to have 60 to 80 in the group.

"It is about having it to ourselves, but it is also for youth protection for our kids," Marlin said. "That's a Cub Scout and Boy Scout term that is about making sure they are with responsible adults and are safe."

Ashley Fisher, of Westminster, is planning to bring a group from MOPS, or Mothers Of Preschoolers, which is an organization that meets at Lifepoint Church in Reisterstown.

She said she's been to many Carroll County Agriculture Center events but never the corn maze.

"I thought it would be fun to go with other families and our kids," Fisher said. "It is a good opportunity to get some of our families together. We are hoping to go on a Friday evening about 6 p.m. That time slot would include our working moms as well as our stay-at-home moms."

Fisher said she is planning to bring her husband and their two sons: Zach, 4, and Charlie, 2.

The maze, Porter said, has many features that appeal to younger children.

"We sell some light refreshments there, like chips, candy bars sodas and water," Porter said. "We also have a smaller maze that is made of straw bales for little kids. We sell small pumpkins and we have different games or coloring activities for kids [who come during] during daylight hours."

"I'm hoping to get at least 10 families to join us," Fisher said. "I specifically look for fall events for my boys and I thought this would be a fun fall-themed thing to do with the kids and families from MOPS. I know my boys will love it."

Marlin advises folks to dress for the weather because evenings can get chilly and sometimes muddy.

She suggests flashlights and bright clothing for children who are going through alone.

"This is a good way to get out with your family," Marlin said. "It's nighttime, so it can be scary but in a safe environment. The kids just enjoy it, and when we reserve our own night it's easier to know where everyone is. We don't have to worry about kids alone in the maze."

Marlin said sometimes her group splits into family groups or go with their own den or family group, but the adults always know where the kids are.

"They go out with their flashlights and their little maps so they get some map reading skills as well," Marlin said. "They get to make decisions on their own about which way to go. They think it is spooky, cool and fun to explore. They even like when they go the wrong way and have to figure out how to get back on track."

According to Marlin, her groups have fun and ask to come back year after year. She encourages people to visit the maze.

"It's a great family event. It's local and it's nice to support local businesses. It's not expensive; it's in a safe place and it is fun so why wouldn't you go? There is so much fun right in our own backyard," Marlin said. "There's so much in Carroll County that people just don't know is there."

The cost to go through the corn maze is $10 for adults, $5 for ages 3 to 12 and free to ages 2 and younger.

Groups of more than 10 can pre-register for a group rate of $8 for adults, $4 for children ages 3 to 12 and free to kids age 2 and younger.

"Most of the time people really like it," Porter said. "The kids sometimes think of it as a race, but the ones who take the time to find all the answers really have a good time. Some run through it fast and then go through it again more slowly. Once you come in the gate you can go through 20 times if that makes you happy."

If you go:

What: Corn maze at the Carroll County Agriculture Center

Where: 706 Agricultural Center Drive, just off Gist Road, Westminster

When: Weekends from Sept. 25 through Nov. 1 — Fridays: 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturdays: 2 to 9 p.m.; Sundays 1 to 6 p.m.

Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for ages 3-12 and free to ages 2 and younger. Groups of more than 10 can pre-register for a group rate of $8 for adults $4 for kids ages 3 to 12 and free to kids age 2 and younger

For more information: Call Porter at 410-848-6704 or visit the Carroll County Agriculture Center www.carrollcountyagcenter.com and click on "Corn Maze"

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