The return of Eliada’s annual corn maze, the largest in Western North Carolina, marks the return of the fall season — reminding Ashevilleans to head outside and enjoy the (so far) somewhat cooler weather. And that message is carried out in more ways than one at the autumn attraction, opening on Friday, Sept. 5, running through Oct. 26.
This year’s maze design was inspired by outdoor recreation, featuring Mr. Moon of the Asheville Tourists, one of the main sponsors of this fall’s maze.
In the labyrinth, says Brooke Brownlow, corn-maze manager at Eliada Homes, “you have everything that would link in with the recreation theme — sports equipment, bikes and Mr. Moon. And we also have the attractions that are known from previous years: corn cannons that shoot corn at pumpkin men, slides, a corn kernel box (an alternative to a sandbox for younger children). And we have a new attraction this year: a lassoing competition.
“We’ve got fence posts set up along the edge of the field and pictures of the animals that we have here, and the children will have an opportunity to learn lassoing skills to see if they can lasso one of our farm animals. It should be great great fun. We hope to add that to all of the other [regular] attractions that prove to be very popular.”
With 12 acres of four separate mazes varying in length and many other activities to enjoy, Eliada’s corn maze attracts thousands of people every year.
“Last year I believe a little more than 20,000 people over eight weekends came,” Brownlow says. “More than $160,000 was raised, and all of this money goes to fund the projects and the programs for the children here at Eliada. It’s a great fundraiser to be able to provide all the extras for the kids and to care for the farm animals. It’s such a beneficial event, and the kids really respond to it.”
And with a 2.7-mile maze trail, along with a shorter one-mile maze and two “storybook” trails for smaller children, the corn maze and other activities are proven to be an all-ages affair.
The storybook trails feature two characters from children’s books: Spookly and Ciderella. “Spookly really ties in with the anti-bullying campaign,” Brownlow says. “From what I understand, Spookly is a square pumpkin who was teased for being square by all of the other round pumpkins.” One day, Spookly saves the day with his unique shape. “It really ties in with school curriculum and things that kids deal with,” while Ciderella teaches children about the importance of knowing where their food comes from.
And for those who wear themselves out shooting corn cannons or climbing the rope “spider web,” tractor rides are available that weave in and out of the maze.
“This is the sixth year of the corn maze,” Brownlow says. “And it’s gained more and more popularity every year. We encourage everyone who hasn’t been to come out and see what’s going on, learn more about Eliada and our work with local children and families.”
And Eliada’s always looking for volunteers to take shifts during this yearly event, offering two free tickets for each volunteer. “It’s very easy,” Brownlow says of the volunteer work. “We ask that volunteers take a 3-hour shift, but we do give you snacks and a drink and we’ll show you exactly what to do and support you every step of the way.
“We had 500 volunteers volunteers come out last year, and every single [one who] takes a shift helps us and saves us money. The more money we can raise, the more money goes to helping and supporting local families. Even if it’s one shift over the weekend, it’s still a shift. It’s still saving us time and money. And we have shifts available all through September and October.”
Corn maze hours:
- Thursdays 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- Fridays 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Saturdays 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Sundays 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.