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Nothing corny about this a-maize-ing race

On the Sweet Corn Express, kids go krazy for kernels. There’s also a kids maze.

Courtesy of Long and Scott Farms

On the Sweet Corn Express, kids go krazy for kernels. There’s also a kids maze.

Get in the car kids, we're going to a corn maze.

A what?

Yes, you tropical popsicles, we do have corn mazes in Florida. Granted, you have to wear sunscreen, hats and carry bottled water to wander in a field in midafternoon, but it sorta feels like a fall thing to do, even if the weather is more like late summer.

So last weekend, we went to the opening of the Scott and Long Farm corn maze in Zellwood, about 30 miles northwest of Orlando.

Family farmers should practically be housed in a museum here in condo land, but these folks have been at it for almost 50 years and they've figured out one way to pay the bills is to cut a maze through a patch of 8-foot-tall field corn. There's a 7-acre maze of winding paths and a smaller 1-acre maze for younger kids. There are also family activities, including a small mist maze for cooling off, a swing set, a 60-foot slide, hay rides and a catch-and-release fishing pond stocked with speckled perch, bream and bass.

You can pack your own lunch for the picnic area or buy some so-so pizza or turkey legs from the vendors set up on site. I recommend the Italian ice.

Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for kids 3 to 16, but the better deal is to get the maze, a hay ride and fishing package ($13 for adults, $11 for kids) and get some special maze glasses ($1) to go with a secret decoder map. For two adults and two kids, it was $56.

The maze, sure enough, had tall corn that sent my sense of direction off-kilter. Luckily, my 10-year-old has it in spades, and after several eye rolls, he took over and I followed the group.

This is a challenging maze, and like the Amazing Race or geocaching, it's a thrill when you find what you are looking for — in this case a clearing with some clues to a word-search puzzle and a map of where to go next.

The path is sandy and not made for strollers, and plenty of kids younger than 3 were getting whiny and tired about halfway through a challenge that takes most families at least an hour to finish. Better to keep the littlest ones in the small maze or put them in a backpack-like child carrier.

After besting the maze, there's a good hour or two of diversions if you do the hay ride, go fishing, check out the small playground and shop in the market for pumpkins (decently priced at $8 for a good-sized one), decorative corn stalks, veggies and country market sauces and dressings.

Considering the drive, we'll be sticking to the upcoming Manatee County maze, which is closer and a better deal, since it's free for kids. But if you have memories of a childhood corn maze in a colder climate, a trip to the country can cure fall fever and teach you something about Florida agriculture.

Technically, it's fall

Ignore the heat index and indulge in these fall offerings:

Scott and Long Farm corn maze In Zellwood near Orlando, open weekends through Nov. 30. The last tickets are sold at 3 p.m. both days. $10 for adults, $8 for kids 3 to 16.

Sweetfields Farm corn maze, weekends through Nov. 30 This Hernando County family farm in Masaryktown has a 4-acre corn maze, a smaller hay maze and playground open weekends now through Nov. 30. See for details and directions.

Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival Oct. 17-19 and 25-26. This the 17th year for this huge Manatee County collection of fall activities including a corn maze, pumpkin and corn cannons, a circus tent, train rides, hay rides, petting zoo and lots of entertainment. $7 adults, children younger than 12 free, parking is $4.

Autumn Harvest Oct. 18. Hay rides, bobbing for apples, sack races, tree climbing and fruits and vegetables for purchase. It's free to enter, but 50 cents for games and $1 hay rides. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Boyd Hill Nature Preserve's environmental studies area, 2900 31st St. S, St. Petersburg.

Fall Festival Fundraiser Oct. 25. The Rockin' Horse Farm in New Port Richey will have pony and hay rides and lots of kids' activities, all $5 or less, to benefit the Therapeutic Horsemanship and Riding Program. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., 8118 Plathe Road New Port Richey.

Art Arbor Festival Nov. 1-2. Lots of artists, musicians and crafters come out for this annual festival, which includes a maze made of hay bales, wildlife exhibits and live music at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S in St. Petersburg,

Nothing corny about this a-maize-ing race 10/09/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 9, 2008 12:39pm]
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