CANORA, Sask. — Lenard Bazarski fenced off a six-acre corn patch for winter grazing several years ago, and he and his wife Bonnie’s three children spent hours scampering through the stalks.
That experiment has turned into an annual fall attraction anticipated by people of all ages.
Corn Trails is set within 20 acres of a 60-acre field 15 kilometres west of Canora near Good Spirit Lake. It isn’t a traditional corn maze because the Bazarskis don’t use a pre-set pattern to cut into the growing corn.
“It’s all in my head,” Lenard said.
He starts to cut when the corn is about a metre high. Paths curve and loop rather than bend in sharp corners. Some are dead ends, of course. There are short courses and a long way to a fire pit and picnic area, complete with a portable toilet, situated in a bush of aspen, wild raspberries and cranberries.
Along the way, people might encounter vintage farm equipment left on site from previous owners. A cabin along one of the trails and the old farmhouse and barn become haunted houses for Halloween celebrations.
“We had some aerial photos taken,” Bonnie said. “Even we were amazed at how it looked.”
She said it takes most visitors about an hour to complete the trails, although knowing the short cut can reduce the time by half.
Many people enjoy the trails but also take advantage of the picnic and grilling area. Last year, about 2,500 people went through the maze from late August to mid-October.
The Bazarskis don’t heavily promote their trails. It’s not a business as much as a hobby that comes during the busy harvest time. They crop about 1,250 acres and have 100 cows.
“We don’t mind it being low key,” said Bonnie.
They host school classes, birthday parties and organizations looking for a fun place to host an event or staff party.
Their children, Shaelynn, 15, Taralee, 13 and Cody, 12, help.
This is the third year for the trails, which opened in 2010 mainly to friends and neighbours just for fun.
“I like to entertain,” said Lenard.
In 2011, it was too wet to seed.
This year, the corn, planted with a drill, is about three metres tall in spots. In others, where it tends to be too wet, it is barely waist high, but that isn’t necessarily a problem.
The ultimate goal remains to take advantage of the feed the corn provides. That’s why every visitor must follow the main rule: you can’t pick the corn.
“Last year, we brought 100 cows in for just about 90 days of grazing,” Lenard said.
In the spring, the cows calve in the same area and clean up any corn they — and the deer and moose — left behind from fall and winter grazing.
He tried confining the cows to smaller areas of the field so they would make better use of the corn, but the snow was so high last year they just walked over the fence.
This year, he is thinking about trying to harvest the corn instead.
The Bazarskis are also thinking of other things they could do to enhance the Corn Trails experience.
“We tried pumpkins,” Bonnie said. “They either got frosted or drowned.”
A mini-maze made from small square bales would appeal to families with smaller children. A small petting zoo is another possibility.
“Our kids are in 4-H so we actually have tame cattle,” she said. “They would love the interaction with kids.”
The current renters in a home on the property have a couple of friendly puppies that seem to know the trails well and like the company.
Sunday Searches is a popular part of the trails experience, when Sunday visitors who find a ball hidden along the trail receive a prize.
“There are lots of things we could do,” Bonnie said.
The creative Lenard has now set his thoughts toward a sunflower maze.