MILTON — Twelve-year-old Nathan Stemple emerged from the Cooper Family Farms’ Corn Maze in Milton Saturday afternoon after wandering around in it for a little over an hour with his mom and grandmother.
“I got lost a few times in the maze and knew I need to go back and find another way out,” he said.
Stemple and his mother, Jessica Stemple, visited the maze after his grandmother Monica Byrd, who lives in Milton, suggested it as a fun activity.
“This was our first time here, and it was a lot of fun,” Jessica Stemple said.
They were not the only ones wandering around the 8-acre corn maze behind the old Milton Middle School.
“My family just loves it here, so we have been coming every year for the past several years,” said Leann Starkey, of Milton, who came with her husband Chris and their three sons, Brennen, Aiden and Ryan. “The corn maze and the corn crawl are the kids’ favorite things, but there is just so much fun here for everyone.”
Kim and Joyce Cooper, along with their family and friends, began the 19th year of the Cooper Family Farms’ Corn Maze starting the weekend after Labor Day, and it will continue through Halloween.
“We started because my wife and I worked with our youth group at church, and there weren’t a lot of family things to do, so we decided to try to come up with something folks to do,” Kim Cooper said. “We had this property and decided to give it a try.
Cooper, a veteran family farmer who also happens to be the assistant superintendent of Cabell County Schools, said attendance at the Maze is contingent on the weather.
“A year ago it was an unusually wet year, but we still had lots of people come,” he said. “In previous years, we have had from 8,000 to 28,000 people. Really, it has grown every single year since we started in 2000.”
The Maze has somewhere in the neighborhood of 400,000 plants, according to Cooper.
“We have 457 turns or twists in this particular maze,” he said.
This year was the first time a Maze design was redone.
“Last night we a gentleman here that played football at Marshall in 2003 and 2004, and he came to the front and said the last time he was here was in 2003, which is the same Maze he did the last time he was here,” Kim Cooper said. “We kind of retro-themed it this year. We have a farm scene that’s cut into the Maze, which has a scarecrow sitting on a tractor in the middle of a pumpkin patch.”
In years past, Cooper and crew have carved out corn paths in the shape of everything from the New River Gorge Bridge and pumpkins to Uncle Sam, a tribute to Woody Williams (last year) and even the state of West Virginia.
“We also have a corn crib crawl, which is a trailer that has 27 compartments built like an old corn crib,” he said. “You go in one end and have to contort your body to go through it.”
In addition to the Maze, there’s also a concession stand, a fire pit area, the cow train for kids, the corn crib crawl adventures and a new and improved kids play area featuring a bouncy house.
Cost for the maze is $8 for anyone ages 4 and older; 3 and younger get in free, and group rates are $7 for groups of 10 or more.
There’s also a pumpkin patch where folks can buy pumpkins (priced depending on size). There are also birthday parties available at the maze, as well as a tent rental for the fire pit area as well.
The Maze will also be hosting its popular Field of Screams Haunted Maze Friday and Saturday, Oct. 25-26, beginning at dark around 7:30 p.m., Cooper added.
“We cut an extra path in the Maze itself,” Cooper said. “There are several different stations that will scare you.”
Admission is $12 per person regardless of age. No discounts or reservations for haunted times.
“We try our best to provide a place to relax, play some games with the kids and spend quality time with the family,” Cooper said.
The Maze is open 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays, noon to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. The Maze is also open Monday through Thursday by reservation.
For more information, visit www.cooperfamilyfarms.net or call 304-634-1722 during the day or 304-634-6293 in the evenings.
Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.