Fifer’s Farm Fest promises a-maze-ing time

Decked out in her Charlie Brown, shirt, Lisa Kane, of Fifer Orchards, guides school children and parents through the farm’s “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” corn maze Wednesday morning. The maze is part of Fifer’s annual Fall Fest, which has been extended this year through Nov. 5. (Submitted photos/Marc Clery)

Decked out in her Charlie Brown, shirt, Lisa Kane, of Fifer Orchards, guides school children and parents through the farm’s “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” corn maze Wednesday morning. The maze is part of Fifer’s annual Fall Fest, which has been extended this year through Nov. 5. (Submitted photos/Marc Clery)

WYOMING — In what’s become a Downstate fall tradition, Fifer Orchards is transporting people to those brightly colored leaf-infused, apple-cider flavored, crisp autumn days.

The Corn Maze Fun Park is once again the main attraction, where folks can take a hayride around the orchard, zoom down super straw slides, ride pedal-powered mini-tractors and enjoy plenty of other seasonal offerings.

And one can surely bet that if it’s fall, there are pumpkins involved.

So it’s no surprise that one of Fifer’s largest attractions this year is the “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” corn maze that spans a whopping 6 acres and features Snoopy and Charlie Brown in a pumpkin patch.

Fifer’s has opted to extend the Corn Maze Fun Park this fall until Saturday, Nov. 5, due to all of the rainy weekends that have soaked October.

That’s just fine for Michael Fennemore, the retail manager for Fifer Orchards, and others who staff the Fall Fest.

After all, it was quite an honor for Fifer’s, which was one of about 80 different farms in the Maize group that were selected to feature the Great Pumpkin design during the well-known TV program’s 50th anniversary year.

The Maize group is a network of family farms across North America that work together to share ideas about agritourism.

“We were excited when the opportunity arose to work with the Peanuts company,” Mr. Fennemore said.

This is what Fifer Orchards’ 50th anniversary “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” six-acre corn maze looks like from high above. (Submitted photo/Fifer Orchards)

This is what Fifer Orchards’ 50th anniversary “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” six-acre corn maze looks like from high above. (Submitted photo/Fifer Orchards)

“We know ‘The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ is such an iconic and nostalgic fall TV special for so many folks and thought it was a neat gesture by the Peanuts company to incorporate family farms, pumpkin patches and corn mazes into celebrating their 50th anniversary.”

Fifer’s corn maze has six different stations for visitors to discover. Each station has a differently shaped hole-punch so explorers can track their progress on their corn maze map.

It normally takes around 30 to 45 minutes to find all the stations inside the maze, which also features an observation deck for guests to look out and get a different perspective.

Mark Williamson, of Dagsboro, makes an annual trek to Fifer’s with his wife and children to get a taste of autumn.

He said he wasn’t disappointed after his family emerged from the corn maze Wednesday.

“I think they did an awesome job with it,” Mr. Williamson said. “It’s really nice and the kids enjoyed it and had a good time. It took about 35 minutes to complete with the map.

“We’ve been coming here about four or five years and never actually finished the whole course, but we actually finished it [Wednesday], so that was big achievement for us. They really do a nice job out here.”

Build it and they will come

“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” marks the 12th year that Fifer’s has built a corn maze.

Last year’s maze paid tribute to state icons in Delaware, such as the state tree, flower and bird. Two years ago, the cornfield featured a railroad theme.

Mr. Fennemore said putting the whole corn maze together is a long process that starts by choosing a theme in the winter months.

Once they decide on the theme, they begin to fine tune the images they want to see in the maze

Grayson Hudson, 4, rides on a zipline at Fifer Orchards in Wyoming. Fall Fest attractions also include a hayride around the orchard, super straw slides and pedal-powered mini-tractors. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Grayson Hudson, 4, rides on a zipline at Fifer Orchards in Wyoming. Fall Fest attractions also include a hayride around the orchard, super straw slides and pedal-powered mini-tractors. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

design, along with making it “maze-like” and challenging.

It is a design process that sometimes takes multiple edits before they get it exactly the way they like it, according to Mr. Fennemore.

The next step is planting the corn.

“We usually plant the corn maze field around July 4. The field is planted in two directions: north-south, then east-west,” Mr. Fennemore said. “This provides a nice, dense corn field for the maze. After about 10 to 14 days, the corn is around 6 inches tall.

“At this point, we count the rows and do simple geometry, measurements, intuition … and a bit of magic … to translate the image from the computer and create the image in the field. It is essentially a big connect the dots game.”

He added that Fifer’s Orchards determines the coordinates of its designs manually, and not with the help of a GPS.

Mr. Fennemore said the remaining corn grows quickly, which leaves the image of the corn maze for people to enjoy in the fall.

He said he has noticed airplanes, helicopters and even a blimp circle the field as they check out the corn maze images over the years.

Last chance at fall fun

With Fifer Orchard’s Fall Fest extended until Saturday, Nov. 5, there is still another week to get that fall fix in.

The Corn Maze Fun Park will be open every day — except Sunday — through Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for youth ages 2-17 (includes a free jack-be-little pumpkin), $5 for adults ages 18-69 (includes a free jack-be-little pumpkin). Children under 2 and adults over 70 are admitted free.

That means Lisa Kane will get another week working as one of the gatekeepers at the entrance to the corn maze. She has stood guard as families and school groups have toured the maze this fall.

Lexi Cool plays in the Tire Tumblers at Fifer Orchards in Wyoming. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Lexi Cool plays in the Tire Tumblers at Fifer Orchards in Wyoming. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

She said the maze usually attracts people from 12 years old and up and that smaller children usually don’t have the patience or perseverance to complete it. They enjoy the slides and other attractions.

“It’s a challenge,” Ms. Kane said. “For families and older children it’s like, ‘Let’s take the map and see what we can do.’”

Although there are activities and events year round at Fifer’s, there just seems to be something even more special about fall at the orchard.

Mr. Fennemore said it certainly never gets old.

“It’s always a challenge, but something we look forward to each year,” he said. “Each corn maze is like a snowflake, there’s not one exactly alike.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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