find success turning farm
into tourist attraction
maze has become an annual hit with fall visitors
LEXINGTON, Ind. (October 2004) A PBS special,
an entrepreneurial spirit, and a 73-acre farm was all it took for Charlie
and Betty Spencer to begin plans to create a fall attraction. Now in
its fourth year of operation, Spencers Corn Maze promises to be
even bigger and better than before. It opened for the 2004 season on
Sept. 18 and will remain open through October.
by Chrissy Stewart
left in front, Charlie and Betty
Spencer, with (back row from left) their
son, Chuck, and nephew, Casey.
The Spencers grew corn and soybeans on their Lexington,
Ind., farm for nine years before they saw a PBS documentary about the
rising popularity of corn mazes. Soon afterward, they began researching
how to open and operate their own maze. They spoke to other area farmers
who had already ventured into the business. In no time, they knew this
was something they should and could do.
Four years later, they are still adding to the attraction, adopting
the motto, Bigger is better.
They take pride in providing a clean family atmosphere to
locals and visitors alike. People discover us when theyre
looking for something to do around Madison, said Betty, who also
maintains a full-time job at Hanover College.
Mazes attract visitors for varying reasons, noted Betty. Some enjoy
racing through the maze, while others like to search for hidden objects.
Since many customers return year after year, the Spencers make sure
to change the layout every year. This year, the maze encompasses about
seven acres of land, she said.
Hannah Shaffer, 6, was one of the young maze-goers on opening day who
was impressed with the winding rows of corn. Emerging from the towering
stalks, she said, I thought wed never get out of there.
The Spencers 17-year-old son, Chuck, and 20-year-old nephew, Casey,
play a big part in running the maze, since Charlie also works at the
Indiana-Kentucky Electric Corp. power plant full time. Charlie and the
young men choose the design of the maze and cut it.
by Chrissy Stewart
Last season, the younger men took over a large portion
of the daily operations as well, allowing Charlie to pursue his other
hobby of playing his banjo in the local bluegrass band Glory Bound.
Hoosier hospitality is overflowing at the Spencer farm. Visitors receive
unlimited trips through the maze as well as extras, such as a hayride,
bonfire and a chance to chat with Charlie and Betty. Big Red,
the pony, and Chigger, the dog, also anxiously await the
arrival of their annual visitors. Hot dogs, soft drinks and water are
available for sale. And, of course, no fall visit to a farm would be
complete without bringing home a pumpkin or two. Pumpkins of all sizes
can be purchased for only $1 apiece.
A variety of groups take advantage of the popular seasonal activity.
The Spencers play host to groups, such as family reunions, birthday
parties and church youth groups. Groups receive special rates and can
be accommodated any night of the week upon request. A covered picnic
area is also on site for the groups convenience.
Hours of operation are 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays; noon to 11 p.m. Saturdays;
and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. For added holiday enchantment, the Spencer
ghouls and goblins haunt the maze every Saturday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The maze is open rain or shine, and flashlights are provided on haunted
Admission prices are $5 for adults and $2.50 for children under 10.
Children under 2 are free. The maze is located three miles west of Hanover
on Hwy. 56. Group rate $4.
For more information, visit: www.spencersmaze.netfirms.com.
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