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WDAY: The News Leader

Published September 29, 2013, 09:36 AM

Farmer makes a maze you can solve with cellphone

EMERADO, N.D. (AP) — One of North Dakota's only corn mazes has been using technology to turn an ordinary walk into an interactive experience.

By: JENNIFER JOHNSON, Grand Forks Herald, Associated Press, WDAY

EMERADO, N.D. (AP) — One of North Dakota's only corn mazes has been using technology to turn an ordinary walk into an interactive experience.

The owners of Nelson's Pumpkin Patch near Emerado started using Quick Response Codes, those small black and white squares scanned by smartphones for advertisement purposes, to draw more attention to the maze, now in its second year.

Smartphone users can scan the codes for directions around the 10-acre, spider web-shaped maze, or use it for a trivia game with friends that will help them find the end. The pumpkin patch and corn maze will open Saturday and close Oct. 27, weather permitting. Another corn maze in the region, the Country Corn Maze, in Warroad, Minn., has been open since Aug. 23.

The mix of technology with corn mazes is a somewhat new venture, according to Todd Nelson, a farmer who owns the pumpkin patch.

"It's just another twist to it," he told the Grand Forks Herald. "I always thought that it would be kind of neat to (incorporate) smartphones, since everybody has one."

Walking through the maze, Nelson said the design takes all summer to create, despite the short amount of time it's available.

They cut the corn when it's new and mow the area three or four times to prevent it from coming back, he said.

Nelson and his wife, Carrie, chose the spider web design after checking out clip art images with the idea of creating a bigger challenge for visitors this year, hoping most will spend an hour there. If all checkpoints are fulfilled, visitors can get a $1 discount on a pumpkin.

Using a computer to determine the width and length of each of the lines, Nelson transferred that information to a hand-held GPS device, which shows him where and how far to mow.

"As I mow the line, it fills it in for me," he said.

The maze is a newer addition to the already popular pumpkin patch, which draws hundreds of families each year.

Children also participate in the farm's hay rides and haunted grain bins.

This fall they can also launch corn cobs to hit ghosts, pumpkins and other Halloween-themed targets and climb on ropes formed into a spider web.

The idea of the pumpkin patch first came about after Nelson's wife visited a pumpkin patch near Bismarck. A second-grade teacher, she loved the idea of having a patch at their farm.

"I thought she was crazy," Todd Nelson laughed, referring to the amount of work involved in creating the pumpkin patch. "But here we are, 16 years later."

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