Navigate Through One of the World’s Largest Corn Mazes

They left hogs behind to build a business around the most intricately designed corn maze.

Navigate Through One of the World’s Largest Corn Mazes| Country Life Stories | Farm & Ranch Magazine

GEORGE RICHARDSON

Last year’s Old Glory maze began with a sketch the Richardsons’ maze guy turned into an intricate GPS map.

Navigate Through One of the World’s Largest Corn Mazes| Country Life Stories | Farm & Ranch Magazine

GEORGE RICHARDSON

The farm also offers more than 20 other attractions, including an observation tower, pig races, jumping pillows and a zip line.

Navigate Through One of the World’s Largest Corn Mazes| Country Life Stories | Farm & Ranch Magazine

GEORGE RICHARDSON

The Richardsons (from left, George, Wendy, Ryan, Robert and Carol) create a new maze design each year and keep kids busy solving maze mystery games.

Navigate Through One of the World’s Largest Corn Mazes| Country Life Stories | Farm & Ranch MagazineNavigate Through One of the World’s Largest Corn Mazes| Country Life Stories | Farm & Ranch MagazineNavigate Through One of the World’s Largest Corn Mazes| Country Life Stories | Farm & Ranch Magazine

Richardson Farm is located in Spring Grove, Illinois, just 2 miles from Wisconsin and 20 miles west of Lake Michigan. This puts us within an hour’s drive of millions of people, but it still feels like country out here. Our ancestors couldn’t have known this when they homesteaded here in 1840, but because of our location and because we like the people business, we have morphed primarily into an agritourism farm.

In September and October we welcome more than 70,000 visitors to Richardson Adventure Farm, home of one of the world’s largest corn mazes. After Thanksgiving, we sell more than 6,000 choose-and-cut Christmas trees, along with 1,000 wreaths and other greenery. We cook up fresh kettle corn, fudge, doughnuts and caramel corn for both holiday seasons, and it is delicious!

My brother, Robert, and I graduated from the University of Illinois and had “real” jobs for a few years before coming home to raise about 3,000 farrow-to-finish hogs a year with our parents. We planted 1,000 Christmas tree seedlings as a little side business in 1981, and soon realized we liked talking with people a lot more than we liked talking with pigs. People also provided a more steady income!

So, after 22 years in the hog business, we bought the farm from our parents, quit raising pigs and put in a corn maze. We decided that as long as we were at it, we would be the world’s largest corn maze. It went well, and we grew slowly and carefully, putting a lot of thought into providing the best experience for our customers. We are now happily in our 16th year.

We have 530 acres, 92 of which we recently bought at subdivision prices—more than $1 million! But we needed the land to keep growing. We devote about 120 acres to the Christmas tree business, 70 acres to the adventure farm and 230 acres to corn and soybeans. We sell gravel from the other 110 acres.

Robert’s wife, Carol, and my wife, Wendy, are involved in every aspect of the business. And in 2007 my son, Ryan, and his wife, Kristen, bought in. Their kids are the seventh generation on the farm.

We still claim to be the world’s largest and most intricately designed corn maze, even though another maze covers more area. It’s much less intricate, with lots of bare cornfield, so the definition of world’s largest gets fuzzy. Anyway, it’s all in fun. What really matters is that we spend a lot of time and effort designing and creating a very intricate, impressive picture in the cornfield.

We don’t think people enjoy feeling trapped or lost, so we design our mazes with no dead ends. Everyone gets a map with 24 checkpoints to locate, and they can spend as much time as they want solving the maze. It’s fairly easy to get out of the maze, but keeping track of where you are and which way to go can be tricky!

Finding all of the checkpoints usually takes around two hours and earns visitors a certificate they seem genuinely proud to receive. There are also five games in the maze, including a quiz trail, and two kid trails with bridges that let you climb above the corn and see where you are.

In addition to the maze, we offer more than 20 activities, including slides, pedal carts, jumping pillows, a carousel, pig races and a 50-foot observation tower. For an additional charge, visitors can try a train ride, zip line, zorbing (rolling down a hill inside an 11-foot-diameter ball) and a paintball shooting gallery. We also have 100 private, wooded campfire/picnic sites that groups can rent.

We attract a broad age range, partly by staying open until 11 on Friday and Saturday nights. Nearly half of our customers come after 5 p.m. Navigating the maze by flashlight or the light of the moon is extra fun—and challenging!

It’s great to be within an hour’s drive of millions of people, but we know they could be doing a million other things. So we work really hard to provide a great country experience with clean grounds, nice buildings, good food, real restrooms and lots of things to do for all ages—which keeps 150 employees very busy during peak season. All of that is expensive, but we’re doing well. We love the business, and we’d love to have you come see us sometime!

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