Carroll farm board still reaping benefits from corn maze


Weeks after the last visitors wended through paths surrounded by 10-foot stalks, finding dead ends and dark corners along the way, the old-fashioned corn maze in Westminster is still raising funds for the Gesell Farm Board.

The corn maze closed after the first weekend in November, but the corn harvested and shelled last week will be sold at Bowman's in Westminster, said Bill Knill, chairman of the Gesell Farm Board.

With the potential income from the grain, he expects the total profit to be close to $20,000.

"It certainly fell in a range that we were hoping we could do," Knill said. "There were some bigger dreams than that, I know, but I don't think we can be disappointed."

The Gesell Farm Board is a Carroll County-appointed committee that oversees the property that was home to the 17-acre maze. The committee hopes to develop the property for future agricultural and educational purposes.

In the nine weekends the attraction was open, more than 3,300 children and adults paid to find their way through the maze, including 10 school groups and local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, said Brenda Barber, volunteer coordinator.

Four openings led visitors to intertwining paths in the shape of a barn, a silo, a cow's head, a windmill and the word Carroll. Exits were as far as 3 1/2 miles away, depending on which path visitors took.

The county purchased the 120-acre property from the Gesell family five years ago. It is behind the Carroll County Agricultural Center on Smith Road in Westminster, close to the Carroll County Farm Museum.

Besides a few buildings, there's not much on the property "except a lot of grass and the corn maze," said Dottie Freeman, Carroll County Farm Museum manager.

There are numerous suggestions for how best to develop the land. The Gesell Farm Board will meet next month to discuss "what they are going to put on that property and what they hope will happen on that property," Freeman said.

She serves on the committee with other representatives from the Farm Museum, Ag Center and county government. The committee includes nine voting members appointed by the county commissioners who will make any decisions about the property's use.

"Each facility has an idea of how we would like to use it," Freeman said.

The Farm Museum envisions a multipurpose building that could be used to accommodate the overflow of community members taking classes in its maxed-out space. Freeman also said the property could be a future setting for the Fourth of July fireworks display, as houses are encroaching on the current location.

Knill said the goal is to try to figure out how best to use the property to meet future needs to better serve the community and youth.

"We thought about pavilions and trails," he said. "There was also a consideration for horse rings, since the therapeutic riding center is kind of running out of room.

"We definitely want to chart a course within the next six to eight months," he said.

A committee member suggested the idea for a corn maze at a brainstorming session after hearing that such events were highly productive fund-raisers in other places, Freeman said.

"It took off from there," she added. "They ran with it, and it proved to be a great undertaking for the first year."

Knill said the group picked up on the idea and thought it was a possibility because the ground was available to use.

Volunteers provided the labor in mid-May to plant the donated seed and helped with weed control as the cornfield grew.

In August, the five-part maze design was cut into the crop using a skid steer loader with a hydraulically driven rotary motor on the front that was set up to follow directions from a global positioning system, Knill said.

More than 100 volunteers, including members of the committee, their families, and local 4-H clubs, helped out at the activity, selling tickets, refreshments and hot chocolate.

Some volunteers provided guidance inside the maze, while others watched from a hill as visitors tried to find their way out.

Floodlights illuminated the course, and each visitor received a map of numbered fence posts inside to prevent anyone from really getting lost. While the organizers were prepared for an emergency, Knill said they did not have to make any rescues, and no one was reported lost.

"One person had a slight sprain, romping around I guess, but that was it," he added.

Other than having to close the maze one weekend and one other night for rain, the activity went off without a hitch, Barber said.

Organizers expected problems from having to shuttle visitors to the maze because a parking lot scheduled to be constructed on the property for the Ag Center was not finished.

However, the wagon and tractor rides turned out to be a plus for many of the kids, Knill said.

"The kids loved getting on that wagon and being pulled down there by a tractor," he said.

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