If you build it ...
October 7, 2005
By Jody Minalgo
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-TIMES
Baseball inspires annual cornfield maze
BROOKFIELD — You just might confuse it with a small, weekend fair.
Tommy Consalvo, 7, of Brookfield, leads the way through Larson‘s Farm corn maze in Brookfield ahead of his father, Mick, and sister Carly, 5.
Complete with corn mazes, food, live music, hay rides, a monster truck, face painting, and a fresh farm market, Larson's Farm in Brookfield looks more like a family festival than a family farm.
The main attraction, the "Seven Acre Stretch A-maiz-ing Maze," is a baseball-themed corn maze shaped like the sport's essentials — a bat, ball, baseball diamond, and the names of two of the area's most popular teams, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
"Seven Acre Stretch" is Larson's fourth annual maze. Each year, it features a different theme, such as the jungle, underwater, and NASCAR motifs of the past.
With the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry intensifying over the past couple of years, and a corn maze that coincides with the end of the baseball season and the playoffs, farm co-owners Dean Schultz and his father-in-law Chuck Carpentieri said the baseball concept would be a perfect fit for this year's cornfield.
After listening to a scrambled message, adventurers are asked to go into the maze and find hidden clues for the names of the 12 players, the coach, the manager, the name of the team, and the city they are supposed to report to at 9 a.m. the next day.
Jamie and Johnny Bairaktaris, both 7, of Redding, ride in the back of a monster truck at Larson‘s Farm.
"Everyone knows that every great team starts out as a farm team," explains an employee at the entrance of the maze. "The commissioner of baseball got wind of our team here at Larson's Farm and wants to come watch us play. Unfortunately our answering machine has not been working very wellź.ź.ź. "
Groups entering the maze are given a sealed envelope containing a map of the maze, and a flag to wave if they want to give up or be rescued by staff members stationed at five different bridges inside the corn field.
Among the towering corn stalks are directional clues. Signs such as the one asking "Who was the last player in either the American League or National League to lead in both home runs and batting average in a single season?" Go left if it was Carl Yastremski of the 1967 Boston Red Sox, or right for Mickey Mantle of the 1969 New York Yankees.
Or, "Who won the World Series more times?" — can assist and frustrate explorers as they are led along the paths.
It sounds simple enough at first, but once in the middle of the seven acres of nondescript corn stalks, the task can be harder than it looks.
One father was overheard telling his two children, "Oh, no, we were just here." "When in doubt, go left," a teenage boy told his family.
"It's kind of complicated, but it's fun," said Victoria Moran, 12, of Danbury, who came with her father and 10-year-old brother, Julian.
"It's a little more difficult than I thought it would be, but we'll make our way out," she said.
Briana Svege, 7, of Danbury, gets her face painted.
Because of the detailed planning that goes into the maze, it's not surprising people can easily get lost.
Schultz recruited Adrian Fisher from England, one of the best maze architects in the industry, to help design the maze.
"He's like the Picasso of mazes," said Carpenteiri. "He's designed mazes all over the world. It's pretty much his design."
Planning begins in December. In the spring, the corn is planted and later cut while it is still about two feet high.
"There's four miles of walking trails in there," said Carpentieri.
Though it's hard work, it's worth it in the end. "When the little kids run around with a smile on their face, you forget about all the work," said Schultz. "Well, you don't really, because you feel it in your body, but it's worth it."
Marina Medveclev came with her friends and family from Stamford. "We thought it was wonderful. So cleverly made," she said. "We actually had to open the envelope and use the map to get out. We voted democratically where to go, and made a few wrong turns. There was some finger pointing, but it was all in good fun. We would definitely come back."
Schultz estimates 8,000 to 9,000 people visit the maze each year.
According to Schultz, a third-generation Larson — his mother was one of the original Larsons, owners of the farm for more than 100 years — his brother in Wisconsin inspired him to do the maze.
"He started telling me about the mazes out there and that some of the farmers were making more money off their mazes than their crops. He planted the idea in my head."
The maze is open weekends and holidays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through early November. Admission is $10 for adults and children over 13, $8 for seniors and children 4 to 13 and free to children 3 and under.
The "Moonlight Maze," which is navigated by flashlight, and "Haunted Maze" is open Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 10 p.m. the last two weekends in October.
Larson's Farm is at 401 Federal Road in Brookfield. For information, call Larson's Farm at (203) 740-2790 or go online and visit www.LarsonsFarmMarket.com.
Get lost at Larson's
September 16, 2005
By: Jaime Ferris
Brookfield Journal - Housatonic Living
Larson's Farm Market opens its '7-Acre Stretch' corn maze
Though not exactly the "Field of Dreams" that character Ray Kinsella cut into his Iowa cornfield in the 1989 film of the same name, the "7-Acre Stretch" corn maze at Larson's Farm Market and A-Maiz-ing Maze in Brookfield has a baseball theme and has become a sort of field of dreams in its own right.
Ready for visitors to step up to the plate, this year's A-Maiz-ing Maze opens this weekend with more than three miles of paths weaving
throughout the seven-acre maze. Its accompanying puzzle and clues are loosely based on the famous Abbott and Costello routine,
"Who's on First."
But ask event manager Joe Kaver what really makes the maze so popular and he'll tell you,
"Getting lost has never been so much fun."
"We're really excited this year," said Dean Schultz, who co-owns the market
and A-maizing Maze with his father-in-law, Chuck Carpentieri. The former is the grandson of Albert Larson and the nephew of Peter Larson,
who taught him the "Larson way" of growing sweet corn.
"We've got the ["7-Acre Stretch"], the mini-maze, the Moonlight Maze and
this year, we've got a Haunted Maze," he said. "Every year is a learning curve. We're not just farmers anymore, but entertainers, and
we're always thinking about how we can top the previous year."
In the past, themes for the maze have run the gamut from the jungle
and the ocean, to NASCAR. With baseball season winding down and the region's abundance of fans, it seemed only natural to have a baseball
theme focusing on the Yankees and Red Sox.
The "a-maiz-ing" adventure was created with the aid of GPS satellites used to cut the
design in the cornfield. The idea for the design and its puzzle, however, was the brainchild of the family and brought to fruition by
world-renowned maze designer Adrian Fisher of London, England. It was cut in mid-July by Rob Stouffer of Precision Mazes, a Missouri-based
"The family gets together every year at the holidays and we start brainstorming to come up with a theme and design,"
Mr. Carpentieri explained. "Once we get a consensus, we have the designer create it for us; we come up with the puzzle and answers.
When we decided on baseball, I remembered the old Abbot and Costello routine and thought it would be great to do a take off on it."
According to the "7-Acre Stretch" brochure, maze travelers are sc outs for the Larson's Farm Team. It appears a message was left on the farm's answering machine from the commissioner of major league
baseball. He needs to know "who's on first, all of the players names, our coach and manager. He also asked if the team could hop on
a bus and come to the ball park no later than tomorrow," Mr. Carpentieri said.
Unfortunately, some of the message was
indecipherable, and it becomes the scout's job to discover the names of players, coach and the manager, as well as the game destination.
Clues are scattered throughout the maze and, when found, answers must be written on the program guide. When all of the clues have been
found, the manager's name will appear in a highlighted column.
For children, there are pictorial clues, each correct answer
corresponding to a letter to be written in the program guide. That answer reveals the name of the "all-time ballpark favorites."
Those who solve the puzzle are awarded a prize. Should scouts get lost or frustrated, staff posted at bridges throughout the maze can help.
"Even people who get lost have fun," Mr. Schultz said.
In addition to the agricultural fun in the cornfields, there are mini-mazes,
face painting, hayrides and refreshments. The ever-popular Midnight Maze will return four nights in October, at which time people can
navigate the maze by the light of the moon and flashlights.
"People love coming out here in the dark-and it's dark in there,"
Mr. Carpentieri said. "The corn is 12 to 14 feet high, and even with flashlights, the corn is so dense you can't see the flashlights on
the other side. But it's always so neat to hear people out there as they try to find their way out."
New this year, is the
"Bob Novella, who is known for haunting his own home every year at Halloween, is coming to do our Haunted Maze
four nights in October. It's unbelievable what he does. He's got some serious stuff to haunt the mini maze. This is definitely not for
the faint of heart," he said.
"There are so many things going on this year," Mr. Carpentieri noted. And he wasn't kidding: The roster includes monster truck rides in October, sing-a-longs with Uncle Emmet and a special performance by the five-piece, all-female group Sister Funk Oct. 9 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
There will also be special days when a portion of the ticket proceeds benefit various charities in the area. Opening day is Brookfield Family Fun Day, followed by Dream Come True Day Sept. 18 and AmeriCares Day Sept. 24. The maze is open during the week by appointment for various groups.
"Costs are extensive, with money spent on water, not to mention how the price of fuel is going up and up," Mr. Schultz said, "but we try to give back as much as we can to the community."
That included giving up four acres of the 34-acre cornfield to create a soccer field for the town to use. As Mr. Carpentieri said, "It is a field of dreams."
And the maze is already in the media spotlight. UPN 9, which covers the Yankees-Red Sox games and the teams' long-standing rivalry, sent a helicopter that hovered over the maze last Thursday taking pictures.
But how did Larson's Farm Market, known for its sweet corn, get into the corn maze business?
Perhaps the first seed of the corn maze idea was planted when the original farm on Route 7, now the site of the high school, was transferred to the Town of New Milford. For years, the family-owned Larson's Farm had been known for its homegrown sweet corn and Connecticut-grown fruits and vegetables, sold daily at its farm market.
"The last night, Dean went out and cut into the field by hand, 'Goodbye 1901-1996.' Dean had hoped to keep the tradition alive," Mr. Carpentieri said. "He was determined to find a way to continue to grow sweet corn."
With more than 100 years of family farming history behind him, Mr. Schultz now grows Larson's sweet corn on a strip of property in New Milford; it is trucked down to the Brookfield location. The maze corn is cut in November and ground up for cow feed.
"It's part-time for me, but I enjoy it," Mr. Schultz said, noting that he also builds houses and works in construction. "I get spring fever in January, and I can't wait to get out there on the tractor and start tilling the fields."
The corn maze craze originated when Mr. Schultz received clippings of corn mazes at Midwest farms from his brother.
"Mazes are really big out there. These farmers found they were making more money with the mazes than they were harvesting corn," he said. "But most of the mazes had no themes, or stories, no clues-you just walked in and walked out. I thought it would be something different, but I never dreamed it would grow the way it has.
"Everyone thought I was crazy at first," Mr. Schultz recalled.
Mr. Schulz found Adrian Fisher of London, England, who designs corn mazes worldwide. The precision cuts are achieved through a laptop installed on a tractor coming from Missouri-based Precision Cuts, which is connected to a GPS satellite system. The corn is cut in mid-July when it is two feet tall, while the uncut corn around the paths continues to grow.
"Then the fun starts-you've got to pull up all the roots so the corn doesn't grow back on the miles of paths," Mr. Carpentieri said. "You have to continuously weed-that's when the real work begins. It's a never-ending battle until people start going through the maze."
Even more unusual is how the corn is planted.
"Usually, farmers plant corn in rows. We plant in rows and columns so it's very dense-it looks like green carpet," Mr. Carpentieri explained. "I'm sure a lot of people drive by and wonder what we're doing. But it's grown that way purposely, so you can't see through to the other side."
"It's been such a struggle this year without rain. It's been the worst season I've seen in years, but we're keeping it growing," Mr. Schultz said. "We've got an irrigation system and have been watering like crazy. The ears have been crying for water. But that's part of farming-you can't control Mother Nature. Farming is the biggest gamble, so you focus on what you can control."
Everyone at Larson's is hoping the rains of Hurricane Ophelia will come before the weekend opening, if at all. "It would be really disappointing if, after weeks of work and no rain, that we would have a washout opening weekend."
Despite all of the work, however, it's all worth it, the owners said. "When [visitors] come in and you see them smiling and having fun, that's what makes it all worthwhile-when you see them having a good time," Mr. Carpentieri concluded. "Dean has continued the family tradition of growing sweet corn, ... and carrying on the tradition of family values. We hope the maze will become a tradition for the families who visit."
Larson's Farm Market and A-Maiz-ing Maze is located at 401 Federal Road in Brookfield. The market is open daily; the maze is open weekends and holidays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the Moonlight Maze and Haunted Maze to open Oct. 21, 22, 28 and 29 from 5 to 10 p.m. All times are weather permitting. Adults are $10; seniors and children under 13 are $8; children under 3 are free. For special events and details, call 203-740-2790 or go to www.larsonsfarmmarket.com.