Vicki Wojcik looks over this yearâ€™s corn maze at Wojcik Farms in Blackstone Friday.
BLACKSTONE - From a distance, the 5.5 acres of cow corn at Wojcik's Farm on Milk Street looks like any other small-farm corn field.
But step inside the thick jungle of stalks and you'll find an intricate labyrinthe of paths, where on a sunny fall day you're likely to find hundreds of people scratching their heads as they navigate their way through what some local enthusiasts say just might be the best corn maze in the Blackstone Valley.
The farm's corn maze opened Labor Day weekend and between now and Oct. 27 the farm will be visited by thousands of people looking to get lost.
But farm owner Chip Wojcik hasn't created just any old corn maze. His maze is a walk-through maze complete with paths, loops, and dead ends and a theme and design that changes every year. To begin with, visitors can enjoy a wagon ride that brings them right to entrance.
According to Wojcik's daughter, Vicki Wojcik, the point of the maze isn't just to get out of it, but to find three checkpoints randomly placed within the maze. These checkpoints are mailboxes, each one containing a hole puncher. When visitors find each mailbox, they punch a hole into one of the boxes on the ticket they received at the point of purchase. After finding all three checkpoints, visitors must then find their way to the exit.
Once out of the maze, they place their ticket into the "ticket box" where they are entered into a raffle with cash prizes.
Visitors are also given an empty crossword puzzle and must find clues within the mase to complete the puzzle.
"We ask people to take their time, enjoy the country setting, and make their venture worth the while," says Wojcik.
The maze has been a big hit since Chip Wojcik began the first one nearly eight years ago. Today, the farm's Facebook corn maze page has 1,850 likes and people turn out in droves, especially on the busy weekends leading up to Halloween. And speaking of Halloween, if you like a little horror with your corn maze, the farm has a separate Haunted Corn Maze that begins Oct. 4.
If you've ever wondered how a corn make is designed and made, then you have to talk to Don Watts, a Pennsylvania-based corn maze designer who comes all the way to Blackstone every year to design and cut Wojcik's maze.
Known as The Corn Maze Guy, Watts has designed mazes from Maine to Florida and as far west as Iowa.
Watts started in farming in 1975 at Shady Brook Farm in Yardley, PA. In 1986, he left farming to start a graphic design business. In 1989, the farm contacted him to design a corn maze, the beginning of his business Newtown Graphics Corn Maze Designs. Shady Brook Farmâ€™s â€śPumpkinFestâ€ť is now one of the most popular corn maze events on the east coast.
The bottom line - Watts is the guy farmers seek out when they want to start up a corn maze. Wojcik's been working with him since 2006.
At Wojcik's farm, Chip Wojcik and his hired hands plant a full five-acre field of corn every year just for the corn maze. Wojcik then calls Watts and they discuss possible themes and designs. This year's theme is tropical and if you were to view the maze from a few hundred feet above the ground you'd be able to make out crop circles resembling a sailboat, palm tree and umbrella on a deserted island a dolphin and a big smiling sun.
Once the corn has grown and is standing tall, Watts arrives at the farm with a computer-generated design he came up with based on a landplot grid of Wojick's plot. He then attaches a GPS to a zero-turn lawmower, follows the coordinates on the GPS and within a few hours the maze has been cut out with three- to four-foot-wide paths
"It's really a living sculpture," says Vicki Wojcik, adding vistors are encouraged to respect the maze and not cause any damage.
The day after the last day of the corn maze season on Oct. 27, the stalks are cut down and the corn is fed to the cows.
Depending on your navigational skills, walking through the maze should take on average between a half-hour to an hour-and-a-half. If it takes longer than that, then your probably lost.
"We've had a few people call the main office from the cell phone to say they were lost," Wojcik smiles.
If you do manage to find your way out of the maze, you can relax and stroll over to the farm's snack shop or farm stand and bakery where you will find everything from apples to cider to fried dough to the farm's famous cider donuts.
Corn mazes may not have single handedly saved the small family farm, but they have helped many farmers make ends meet and sometimes bring in more money then vegetables and fruits they grow.
Wojcikâ€™s farm on Mendon Street is about 300 years old, but itâ€™s been in his family since the early 1950s, when his father, Joseph, bought the land - known for years as Webster Farm â€“ to raise pork and grow vegetables. The farm is next to another farm specializing in all-natural beef and pork, which is run on an adjacent parcel by his Chip's brother, Joe Wojcik.
"I think it's one of the best things we've done for the farm," says Vicki, adding they might have tried it earlier had it not been for her grandfather, Joe, "who didn't like change much."
Today, the corn maze is one of the busiest in the Valley.
"We enjoy and it and the visitors to the farm enjoy it," she says.
If you go:
The corn maze at Wojcik's Farm, 65 Milk St., Blackstone, is open on Fridays from 4-9 p.m. (last ticket sold at 8 p.m.); Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (last ticket sold at 8 p.m.); and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last ticket sold at 5 p.m.).
Tickets are $8 for ages 6 and up and free for children 5 and under.
Group discounts are available for parties of 15 or more for the standard maze.
For more information, call the farm at (508) 883-9220 or visit its Web site at www.wojcikfarm.com.