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Nation’s First Corn Maze Rooted at LVC
10.29.10 |
The weather is cool and the leaves are falling, and in Central Pa., the corn stalks are drying in the field. This time of year is perfect to get lost in a corn maze, a unique attraction that originated at Lebanon Valley College in 1993.

In the early 1990s, Midwest farmers were struggling to recover from severe flooding, which ruined many crops, including corn. LVC alumnus and Disney World producer Don Frantz ’73, and then-student Joanne Marx ’94, had a plan to do something about it: build a corn maze, charge admission, and contribute the proceeds to the Red Cross to aid the disaster victims.

Frantz had read about Europe’s small hedge mazes designed to fit in a backyard or terrace, but the outdoor, human-size maze had not caught on in the U.S. He worked with England’s Adrian Fisher of Minotaur Designs to design the maze. Fisher had some 70 mazes to his credit at that time, including a dragon, but nothing like the product that Frantz envisioned. Marx was a student leader and hotel management major, frustrated with a lack of involvement from the student body. She used the maze as a tool to get students active and participating in a campus event – one that ended up drawing national attention.

“If there was an American adaptation of the European art, it would be a maze in a cornfield,” said Frantz in a 1993 interview.

College students, faculty, and staff, and Frantz’s family and friends worked tirelessly until the project was complete. They called it “The Amazing Maize Maze,” a 3-acre corn maze constructed in the shape of a dinosaur named “Cornelius, the Cobasaurus.” The field, adjacent to the College and owned by farmer Gerald Hoffer, took weeks of work but boasted 1.92 miles of maze pathway when finished in early September 1993. It earned a place as the world’s largest maze in the Guinness Book of Records (though as the corn maze craze grew, that rank faded away).

It was open to the public for just two weekends that fall, and admission of $5 per person benefited the Midwest flood victims. The College raised $27,000 in the opening weekend and an additional $5,000 during homecoming. The maze drew some 6,000 visitors in the first weekend alone.

Since then, “The Amazing Maize Maze” has become a business and creative outlet for Frantz. A career theater producer, he added corn maze development to his production repertoire. While the maze has never returned to LVC, Frantz’s latest work can be seen locally at Cherry Crest Adventure Farm in Ronks, Pa., just south of Paradise in eastern Lancaster County. The 2010 maze at Cherry Crest features 2.5 pathway miles situated on five acres of corn and includes scenic bridges and clues to guide wanderers through the maze. Admission is $14.95 for adults and the maze is open through Nov. 6.

After graduating from LVC in 1973 with a music education degree, Frantz worked as a costumed gorilla at HersheyPark for one summer, where he fell in love with the theater and show business. He later earned a master’s degree in theater management from the University of California—Los Angeles and has worked in theater production for more than 30 years at Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens, Sea World, Super Bowls and Broadway productions. He is the owner of Town Square Productions, a theater management firm, and recently became CEO of Beijing Oriental Broad Management Company, which creates original shows and oversees touring Broadway productions. He now resides in New York, New York.

Marx was an athletic trainer while a student at LVC. She has worked for Davidson Hotel Company since 1997 in revenue management, and now resides in Washington, D.C.

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