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The History of Mazes - Part 3
When the maze craze swept the nations, designers kept coming up with more and more creative ways to build mazes. The mazes were built out of unusual materials, grown out of different kinds of plants and trees, created virtually on the internet, and of course printed on paper. The designs ranged from deceivingly “simple” paths twisted into squares or circles to shapes of animals, household objects, vehicles, landmarks and more! There was no end in sight for the creativity that could be presented through a maze design.
Don Frantz, a Disneyworld and Broadway producer had read about mazes in other countries, and pondered the idea of creating a maze in a cornfield. After all, mazes had been carved into the ground and hedges, what could be that different about doing it in a cornfield? When he pitched the idea to Steven Sondheim over lunch one day, the Broadway composer suggested that Don could call it “The A-maze-ing Maize Maze.” Franz said in an early interview, “If there was an American adaptation of the European art, it would be a maze in a cornfield.”
In 1993, Don Frantz and Adrian Fisher (the world’s leading maze designer) collaborated to create the first interactive corn maze at Lebanon Valley College: a 142,713 square foot maze in the shape of a dinosaur named Cornelius the Cob-asaurus. The idea for the maze grew out of Franz and student Joanne Marx’s desire to bring people together in an effort to raise money for flood victims in the Midwest. Though hedge mazes were popular in Europe, the idea had not yet caught on in the United States. The first corn maze took weeks to create, and was only open for two weekends in the fall, but drew over 6,000 people in the first weekend alone and raised more than $32,000 for the Red Cross.
The success of the first corn maze led to another, and another, and another, and soon Don Frantz and the American Maze Company had taken the nation by storm. Though he and Adrian Fisher only collaborated for a few years before Fisher went back to England, both played a huge part in making the corn maze industry what it is today. Other corn mazes began to crop up across the US, as well as other maze companies like The Maize Company, Maize Quest, Maze Play and more. Corn mazes became a integral part of the agritourism movement that was sweeping the country.
Part of what makes the Amazing Maize Maze so different from other corn maze experiences is Don Frantz’s innovative use of puzzles and problem-solving within the maze itself. But even more than that- he didn’t want the maze to “just” be a giant puzzle, he wanted it to be an experience! Using his background as a Broadway producer, he truly created a theatrical experience inside a corn field. Maze-goers are given a gameboard with a blank map at the beginning of the maze, and instructions to find each piece of the map, hidden throughout the maze. If they find all the pieces, they have a complete map of the maze. Each maze has a Maze Master who keeps an eye on travelers from a high tower, and a Host Maze Master who calls out encouraging comments to all who roam the paths. Frantz even devised a secret way to communicate with the Maze Master so you can get an extra clue- it’s called a “Telestalk Tube.” His fresh ideas paved the way for corn mazes to become an engaging opportunity for fun, instead of just a trek through a field!
In 1996, Cherry Crest Adventure Farm became one of the first corn mazes to open in the US, and is the longest running corn maze in the world! Many of Don Frantz’s ideas are still in use in the maze today. Jack and Donna Coleman, the owners of Cherry Crest, are truly pioneers in the field of corn mazes and leaders in the agri-tainment business!
"Places That Have Featured the Amazing Maize Maze" The Amazing Maize Maze. American Maze Company. Web. 19 Dec. 2014.