Driving on M-35 to the Hayes Corn Maze is a long stretch of road. The leaves paint either side with red, orange and yellow. After nearly an hour, cars lined up on the side of the road come into view, even though the parking lot for the corn maze is not packed to capacity. Even without a full lot, the amount of cars is surprising. Still, the line to purchase a ticket is nonexistent and entrance to the maze is immediate.
Families are inside the premises. Some are standing in the long line for the concession stand, others are guiding their kids through the hay maze, the toddler version of the main attraction. Although it’s a third of the way through October, the weather is still warm enough to go without a jacket.
The Hayes Corn Maze is now in its ninth year and Lenore and David Hayes run the family operation with their children. They wanted to open the first corn maze in the area that would bring together architecture and the landscape of their farm.
“We thought that incorporating design and agriculture would be a really fun yearly project to do and open up for families to enjoy the fall,” Lenore Hayes said.
Each year a new theme is chosen in order to design the maze. This year’s theme is “Treasure Hunt.” The maze is shaped in the image of a pirate ship docked at a tropical island.
“The first year, we just had ‘Hayes Corn Maze’ because we just wanted to introduce the world to what we’re doing, what our name is and that kind of thing,” Hayes said.
Stepping into the actual maze, the stalks of corn are not so high that patrons can’t see over them. Indeed, the only people who might become genuinely lost are the kids, but even that’s hard to do. Exits are provided throughout the maze.
“We always provide easy outs for people to use the restroom or to get something to eat,” Hayes said.
For those looking to complete the maze, there are 10 checkpoints along the way. Tickets are handed out upon entrance, and at each checkpoint a hole puncher is provided to mark which checkpoints have been visited.
The completed ticket can then be entered into a drawing for a $100 prize. Hayes said that some people can spend a couple of hours looking for the checkpoints.
“It just depends on the person, how sharp they are, where they’ve been (and) where they’re going,” Hayes said.
It also depends on how many patrons are currently in the maze at the time. At each checkpoint there is usually a line of people waiting to use the hole puncher. Going through the maze is almost a collaborative process, as eager kids will ask random strangers if they have found a certain checkpoint.
According to Hayes, the maze is seven acres, but each year changes it up a little bit. While her husband is the architect and comes up with dead-ends and various small changes to the design, Hayes is the one who provides the concept and idea.
“It’s really difficult to do. To come up with a theme, the design and to be legible from the sky, there are a lot of different things you’ve got to think about to make it happen,” Hayes said. “But it’s a lot of fun to think about what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.”
Although only half of the checkpoints were found, the official end of the maze is reached in less than an hour. When completed, there are various other activities. Noah’s Barnyard Buddies is an attraction that allows people to feed pigs and chickens, among other animals.
The service that the Hayes family hopes to provide most, though, is a good time with family and friends.
“The biggest thing about the corn maze is that we want to create memories,” Hayes said. “That’s our business. That’s pretty much all of it in a nutshell.”
The Hayes Corn Maze is located in Rock, Mich. Directions can be found at hayescornmaze.com. It runs each Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Oct. 31. Tickets are $8 each and admission is free for children under two.