LUMSDEN, Sask. – Combines are chewing their way through the last of this year’s crop on the flat grain land north of Regina.
But in the rolling land just south of the Qu’Appelle Valley at Lumsden, there is a change of pace to go with the change of geography.
Here, Boggy Creek gurgles over smooth rocks, trees attract intrepid climbers and hiding places beckon.
Pumpkin Hollow might be inspired by the gourd but it’s the whole package that draws thousands of visitors every year.
Kim and Matt Haring and their family live on the hill above the agritourism operation they created.
It began in 2003 with pumpkins, but soon a hay bale maze appeared. Four years ago, they planted their first corn maze in co-operation with The Maize, an American-based design company.
“I wanted to stay home and do something,” Kim said.
“Because we live in the country, we sometimes have (school) bus issues.”
A seasonal business seemed like a good idea. Matt, who works at the oil upgrader in Regina, grew up on a cattle farm in Ohio.
He knew corn – what variety and when to plant it – but their first maze still presented a strong learning curve when weeds overtook it.
The Maize sends its clients a map and Matt cuts the pattern into three acres of corn when it is about 15 centimetres tall.
The Harings have selected scarecrow and Corner Gas themes.
This year, their maze honours the 100th anniversary of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“It’s mind boggling to cut them,” Matt said.
It takes about three days and yes, he does make the occasional mistake. But he said the maze has to be challenging enough for visitors to enjoy it.
This year, the maze was about three metres tall. Weeding, watering and rototilling are all required to keep it tall and thick.
Signs along the route, called cornundrums, help direct maze participants and correctly answered questions earn entry in a pumpkin contest.
Kim said some people are maze aficionados and spend their time travelling from maze to maze. There are as many as five in Alberta.
“You have to stay on top of your game,” said Kim, who welcomes between 8,000 and 10,000 people each year.
She said they offer fresh air, a fun family atmosphere and, for many, a taste of freedom, all for a cost similar to movie admission.
This year, they added a picnic area and a corn cannon, which allows visitors to shoot ears of corn at targets featuring the Roughriders’ opponents.
“Everything you add, you’re investing in the infrastructure,” she said. “I have thought of adding little cottages.”
They also featured a Pumpkin Princess pageant and afternoon tea parties this season.
School groups come out in spring to help plant the pumpkins.
Once school resumes in fall, elementary and preschool-aged children attend Classroom in the Corn, where they go through the maze, take a hay ride and a cow train ride, visit the small petting farm and take home a pumpkin.
“I gear myself to parents with kids to age 12,” Kim said.
She now has other local people growing pumpkins and gourds for the country store on the property and she employs several local teenagers, including her own children.
As Halloween approaches, it is time for Pumpkin Hollow to wind down for the season. It closes Oct. 31.
“We have had lots of requests to be open in winter,” she said.
“We have a real sense of satisfaction,” Kim said. “We’ve created a place where people wanted to come.”