PORTLAND, Ore. - October is the month to break out your hat and mittens, carve pumpkins, watch the leaves fall and perhaps most fun of all - challenge yourself to find your way through the twists and turns of a corn maze.
So where are the top spots to go around here?
Well if you're looking for a hidden gem that's close to home, there's the Fazio Farms maze in Northeast Portland. It's perhaps one of the lesser known corn mazes in our area because they just started doing it last year.
We stopped by there this week and talked to the man in charge, Anthony Fazio, about his second-year run at a corn maze and his family's farming operation.
You might recognize the Fazio name - they have been farming in Portland for three generations now. They own property not only in Northeast Portland, but on Sauvie island as well.
"My grandfather bought this property (the Northeast Portland property) in the 30s," said Fazio. "And he bought the Sauvie Island property in the early 40s."
His grandfather passed away in 1953 and the family has continued his legacy. Fazio runs a lot of the day-to-day operations and his parents, who are getting up there in years, are still very involved in the business. His mother does the books and Fazio said his father "likes to put his 2 cents in everywhere. I think he actually puts 3 cents in," he said with a laugh.
As for the corn maze, the idea was simply to provide a fun activity for families in the fall and of course, to see if they could actually pull it off. Fazio said last year he didn't get the word out much because he wanted to first make sure he could actually do it.
If You Go
Open 7 days a week through Halloween, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends.
Admission is $8 for 13 and over, $5 for ages 5-12 and free for kids 4 and under. $1 off coupon
Tokens are sold for other attractions, which include pony rides, a ferris wheel, a hay maze, a petting zoo and much more.
Other Corn Mazes
"I was a little nervous about how the corn would grow," he said. "And there's more to it than you think. So I was reluctant to do some advertising until i saw that I had a crop."
Now that he's into the second year, he's feeling more comfortable and hopes folks will come out to the farm.
"We're not a household name yet as far as fall fun and Halloween and stuff, but pretty soon we will be," he said optimistically.
How is the corn maze made?
Fazio said he works with a company out of Missouri called Precision Mazes, which designs and helps create corn mazes across the country.
The man at Precision Mazes who makes it all happen is Rob Stouffer. Fazio said he gives Stouffer some coordinates for his property and the man comes up with a design he thinks will work. And Stouffer's got a particular philosophy when it comes to the mazes he creates.
"He's not a fan of dead ends, so there are no dead ends in his mazes," said Fazio. "It makes it harder but he says what people do is they'll walk down to a dead end and go 'oh, it's a dead end.' Then they'll turn around and walk back out. And for the next people that are coming that direction they'll say 'hey, don't go down there, it's a dead end' and ruin it for them."
Once the design is agreed upon, Stouffer shows up on site with a GPS system that guides Fazio and his zero turn lawn mower through the corn stalks to carve out the design. And when it's all said and done, Fazio has himself a corn maze.
"This is a true labyrinth," Fazio said. "And it'll be different every year, that way people that come every year have a new challenge."
What if I get lost and panic?
You will be given a map for the maze, but even following the guide can be confusing when you're standing somewhere in the middle of a corn field.
No need to worry, though, because there is a fail safe. You're given a cell phone number to the person manning the ticket booth. One call and they'll come get you. Of course you'll have to admit that the maze beat you and that might be a little embarrassing.
Are there any rules?
Follow some simple 'corn maze etiquette' and you'll be fine.
Basically you'll want to refrain from doing anything that ruins the 'walls' of the maze - don't make your own shortcuts by plowing through the stalks or push your friends into them for fun. There are signs throughout the maze that remind you to 'stay on the path.'
Also, keep in mind that you're at a family-friendly place - don't head there to 'party.' Fazio said he's only had a few problems so far, but he did recall a group of women in their 30s who showed up intoxicated last year.
"The majority are very respectful," he said. "But it's just like anything - a handful can ruin it for everyone."
All photos by Shannon L. Cheesman, KATU.com Producer/Reporter.