Get Lost in This Central Illinois Corn Maze
Entering its 11th year in 2019, Rader Family Farms opened Sept. 7 for another season of celebrating the best that fall in Central Illinois has to offer. From pumpkin doughnuts and pumpkin bars to apple cider slushie floats, kettle corn, pies, fried cheese curds, pulled pork and the popular “Slop the Hog” sandwich, there’s a bountiful harvest of food options.
But that’s just the start of what the farm just west of Normal has to offer to the thousands of guests of all ages who have made Rader Family Farms the go-to destination for the fall season.
There’s also a 10-acre corn maze (for those looking for an extra challenge, the maze will be open late on Sept. 28 and Oct. 19 and 27 so people can explore the maze by flashlight). Kids can enjoy their own one-acre maze, jump on a huge air pillow, ride a barrel train, explore a miniature town, pump water to race ducks, climb on a straw castle, jump and dig in a bin filled with corn, roll inside a big tube, zip down a 40-foot slide, get their faces painted and much more. You can also feed goats and see lots of other farm animals.
Fall lovers of all ages will enjoy the sea of orange pumpkins, including a field of U-pick pumpkins. (The Raders sold 115,000 pounds of pumpkins last year!) Choose from carving pumpkins, white pumpkins, “Cinderella” pumpkins and a fascinating variety of gourds.
Take a tram ride around the farm or shoot apples up to 600 feet from an “apple blaster.”
New this year are a giant tire swing, slides mounted to an old combine, a ring toss game and a chalk truck where you can draw and write messages. And with 50 scarecrows, a “crop circle” featuring Illinois crops, a schoolhouse, a retail store and more, there’s plenty to see and do.
How to Make an Illinois Corn Maze
At 10 acres, the maze at Rader Family Farms is one of the larger mazes in Illinois. It has two phases, and four “bridges” that allow people to climb a platform to get their bearings. It takes most people about an hour to do the maze, although some have gotten through the maze in 20 minutes.
On the other hand, it’s taken some people five hours, especially if they played the game of finding all of the markers within the maze.[infobox alignment=”right” title=”If You Go”]In 2018, Rader Family Farms is open Sept. 7 through Oct. 30. To plan your visit, go to raderfamilyfarms.com or call (309) 275-8765.[/infobox]
There is a phone number to call if you are lost in the maze, and typically one or two people a day call the number and are “rescued” by staff. The maze is created each year by working with a Utah company to create and refine the design. Precision Planting plants the corn in mid-June – later than corn is typically planted. That ensures that the corn will still be green and stout during the fall season.
The corn is planted using GPS satellite technology, which means the seeds can be planted within 6 inches of where the grower wants them to be. That’s important, because to make the maze corn grow close enough to form walls, the planter goes over the field twice. The planter automatically bypasses planting seeds where paths are planned. Before such high-technology planting was available, the corn was planted more like a normal field, and the Raders then cut down corn plants as needed to form paths. They even used mowers for this. In November, the maze corn is harvested and sold as field corn.
– Chuck Blystone