The Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch in Blair, Neb., is a family affair. Daughter Haley Bledsoe has designed the 10-acre corn maze (opened for the fall on Fri., Sep. 13) since its first season six years ago. “It’s hard to do,” says her mother, Maria. “I’ve tried.”
This year, the maze’s design showcases sheer complexity rather than an actual image to be seen from above. “You will absolutely get lost,” Maria assures, stating that she still can’t go through this year’s maze without getting turned around.
And that’s saying something because the Bledsoe family has been tending the maze since the beginning of summer. “We use twice the amount of seed as other mazes,” Maria explains, adding that most cornfields are planted in just one direction. “We plant in two directions for a really thick corn maze, so you can’t see your neighbor on the next row.” The field is entirely organic, and cultivating the maze involves old-school techniques.
“We map it on a grid, and then we count the rows, using stakes and chalk spray,” Maria says. No GPS here. “After the corn is two or three inches tall, we mow the paths with a riding mower.” A dragger rides behind the mower, getting rid of any stalks. Continued mowing and dragging throughout the summer makes for smooth, compacted paths.
“We wanted to be known as the most manicured maze around,” Maria says. “You think of a corn maze, and you think of ruts and bumpy ground and how you can’t take your stroller over that. We wanted to do something different.”
When the corn is 13 to 14 feet tall, all seven Bledsoes take corn sickles to the maze, trimming leaves that have grown into the paths and hand-pulling any stalks that might have been missed. At least, it used to be that way. Maria says they’ve had to hire help for the last three years, what with the growing business and some of the children going to college and overseas.
But some traditions never die. Saturday nights, for example, are always haunted at Skinny Bones. Brave guests traverse the maze guided only by moonlight (“We confiscate flashlights,” Maria says), knowing costumed actors roam the maze ready to deliver a good scare. Nothing is sacred, not even the hay rides. Is it kid-friendly? “That’s up to the parent,” Maria defers. “Some kids absolutely love it.”
For parents who think their children might appreciate a tamer atmosphere, Maria suggests Friday nights. Flashlights are welcome, no scarers are present, and there’s even a children’s maze this year. It’s about a 10th the size of the original.
For a full list of attractions and pricing, visit skinnybonespumpkinpatch.com.