By Michael Eng
Plant City Times & Observer
PLANT CITY - Hillsborough County's only corn maze returns this weekend for a second year of old-fashioned fall fun.
Fox Squirrel Corn Maze opened for the first of four consecutive weekends Saturday at the Futch family's Single R Ranch at 3002 Charlie Taylor Road N.
In its inaugural year, the maze drew nearly 7,000 puzzle lovers. This year, with a completely revamped and larger maze, along with a plethora of new activities, the Futch family is expecting an even larger draw.
In addition to the 5-acre maze, the event will feature music, pony rides, a petting zoo, pumpkin patch, "corn box" for toddlers, cornhole, a butterfly experience, face painting and a country market. Guests also can take a tour of the grounds via a hayride, try their hand at roping a steer, and watch demonstrations of Florida Cracker skills.
"Our target market is families with young kids," said Carson Futch, who, along with family members Janet and Wayne Futch, came up with the idea for the corn maze two years ago.
The ranch has been in the family since 1920. Ralph Futch pieced together the ranch to raise cattle and citrus. His son, Alvin, purchased the ranch and cattle business in 1972 and continues to operate a smaller portion of the ranch.
With the rise of agritourism, the Futches decided the corn maze would be the perfect way to share their Plant City heritage with children and families throughout Tampa Bay.
"We wanted to have a project for the ranch property," Carson Futch said. "We wanted to bring awareness of agriculture to people who live in suburbs. Some people who live in town have never experienced a working farm, and they want to see what it's all about.
"Hopefully, after coming here, kids will know that not all their food comes from the grocery store."
So far, the idea seems to be working.
"People love to come out here and see the views of the pasture," he continued. "They just sit, drink their coffee and enjoy a peaceful time.
"At last year's event, we asked guests what they would like to see added or different. And they all said, 'Nothing.' They didn't want a bounce house or slide here. They wanted us to keep it simple, keep it country, and keep it about the farm."
Michael Eng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
Fox Squirrel Corn Maze
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 3, and Fridays by reservation for groups of 20 or more
Where: Single R Ranch, 3002 Charlie Taylor Road N, Plant City
Cost: $10 plus tax for adults; $9 plus tax for ages 3 to 17; free for children 2 and under. (Cash, Visa or MC. Vendors accept cash only; no ATM on site.)
Website: foxsquirrelcorn maze.com