Time for cows in the corn maze
October 14, 2007
NEW CASTLE ” The low key attraction in rural New Castle keeps getting more and more popular, despite a professed lack of effort by its owners. The maze will be open until Halloween.
The Rydens started cutting a maze into their cornfield in 2001, just for fun. Contacted on Saturday, Charles Ryden said the maze business is booming.
“We had about 172 people today,” he said. “It just keeps growing on me. There’s cars going in and out of here all day.”
The maze, grown in a 20-acre field, has about three miles of trails that can be walked, many with dead ends.
“You can get through in one mile, though, if you don’t make any bad turns,” Ryden said.
Kids love the Maize Maze. The Rydens place humorous signs throughout, to add to the fun. Some signs are instructional – one urges maze walkers not to knock over the cornstalks – but others taunt the customers about their inability to solve the maze.
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“One tells ’em if they get lost, we’ll find ’em when the cows eat the corn in November,” Ryden said. Another sign, which announces the end of the maze, also says something like, “You got in here, now can you find your way out?”
The Ryden’s real business is ranching. They raise beef cattle, a somewhat exotic breed that’s half red angus. The cattle graze during the warm months, and are fed on hay for most of the winter. The cornfield is to temporarily provide some additional feed and some variation in their diet.
“I turn 150 mother cows in there in November, and it’ll last them about three weeks,” Ryden said. “They eat the stalks and all.”
But the two have gotten more and more involved in the maze business. Though the maze barely pays its own way, the Rydens wouldn’t give it up. They love the community involvement it brings, and the education it provides.
After school begins in the fall, school groups flock to the maze. Rifle Middle School brought more than 200 children at once, Ryden said, and 104 students from Parachute visited last week.
“We get a lot of church groups, too,” Ryden said.
Ag Day is now celebrated annually at the maze. The Farm Bureau and the local soil conservation district both help out with the educational aspect of the day, bringing informational brochures and teaching lessons about farming and ranching. But the maze is the star of the show, the feature that attracts kids to the event.
“Everybody loves it,” Ryden said. “If we didn’t have the maze, they wouldn’t come.” Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups try their luck at the maze, too, he said.
It’s not only for kids. Adults have a great time finding their way through the maze, too. Two groups from Valley View Hospital visited this year, and ExxonMobil brought a group as well.
“They’re having just as much fun as everyone else,” Ryden said.
Maze walkers come from near and far. This year, the Rydens had visitors from Canada, and some from Newcastle, England. Checking his calendar, Ryden noted that they are expecting an agriculture exchange group from Europe on Wednesday, too.
The maze will stay open until it’s time for the cows to eat it up. But just before that comes the climax of the season: Halloween.
“We’ll have a big party that night. We always do,” Ryden said. The owners put out spooky decorations and devise fun activities for kids, and a good time will be had by all.
The following week, they’ll send in the cows.