Spring at Richardson Farm
Boldly Go Where No Corn Has Gone Before
When we designed our very first corn maze in 2001, we decided we might as well go for the world's largest! Why not? We heard that we could still harvest 70% of the corn so there wasn't much downside to being large.

2001- our first corn maze 
Our first maze was 18 acres and was based off the coloring sheet we give out at Christmas time. It turned out great, and we loved the excitement of seeing the aerial photo of our cornfield creation. We were hooked on making a large, intricate design, laying it out carefully, and getting a spectacular aerial picture of it. AND, lots of people came to have some fun!

We had to adjust our thinking about harvesting the corn, though. A few people think it's fun to throw corn through the air (especially at night) and once in a while, someone got hit with the ear of corn. An ear of corn can weigh ½ pound and be very hard. We have dozens of people patrolling the maze at night, but it's impossible to keep every corn-thrower in line. After 3 years, we discovered sterile corn, and have planted that ever since. Our maze corn looks normal, but the tassle has sterile pollen which cannot fertilize the silks on the ears to make kernels of corn. Corn Sex Lesson: Did you know that one grain of pollen (the boy part) has to land on each silk on the ear (just after the silk emerges) and crawl the length of the silk to fertilize each kernel (the girl part)!

When we choose a maze design, we think of a theme that would be interesting to others and also have the potential to make a fantastic corn maze. Not every great idea can become a great "picture" in corn. "Drawing" a picture in corn has it's challenges. It's a very broad brush stroke, if you want to think of it that way, and there is no shading or colors to add depth to a design. For our designs, we often feature anniversaries of various things or notable sports events -like the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup last year. Well, this year we chose----are you ready???

The 50th Anniversary of STAR TREK!
That's right. Way back in 1966, Gene Rodenberry conceived this futuristic show set in the 23rd century about exploring the galaxies. "To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before!" He wanted the elements of the show based on science and the possibilities of science, but not as corny as Flash Gordon and others like that. Talking computers that "knew" everything; interesting beings and life matter on other planets; phasers; mobile communicators; transporters, etc.  Other daring (at the time) elements of the script were a multiracial crew with no bigotry and women in important technical roles (at a time when women on TV were usually housewives or secretaries).

The show was a big hit and other versions continued after the original 3 year TV series. This July, Paramount is releasing a 50th anniversary movie, and we got the rights to use the actual logo and the images of Mr. Spock, Captain Kirk, and the starship Enterprise!
When we start to design our corn maze we take our central images -the 50th anniversary logo and the Enterprise - and we start playing around with different "scenes". This is our first very rough sketch with the starship Enterprise up in space that is beaming people down to the planet "Richardson".  
2016 - first sketch 

We send this to MazePlay - the company that has been designing and laying out our mazes since our very first year - and they do their magic! The original was difficult to "draw" in corn, and we wanted Spock and Capt. Kirk more recognizable, so we ended up with with a great first draft. It has all the elements we need for the design, we just needed more details.   After some tweaking, we come to draft 3.

2016 - first draft 
2016 - third draft 
Draft 3 got us really close with the overall look. We still wanted the central logo a bit stronger, the stars to be more "twinkly", and the upper bridge to be closer to the center of the maze - along with a dozen smaller things. You can see that we were down to the "detail" stage at that point.
Markups on draft 4
During this stage, it gets complicated to keep track of what we are asking to be changed, so we print the picture in black and white and "mark up" the picture with our requested changes. Since the maze is printed like it's a corn field, with the green background representing corn, we use a whiteout correction pen to add lines and a pencil to erase lines. We circle the changes we made and send it back.
Finally, on draft 6 we were almost there. Just a few more emails back and forth and we would have our perfect design.
2016 draft 6
We want the bridges easy to get to because they are great places for people to gather around and also to exit the mazes from, if they want a break. Now is a good time to remind you WHY we have NEVER lost anyone yet - (permanently)! There are no dead ends in the design, so you can always wind your way along the trails to get to a bridge (with easy exit from there) or to the 50 foot tall tower at the entrance to the mazes! (Oh Oh, we had to make a small exception in this design. A few of the twinkling stars are dead ends. You have been warned!)
After the design is completed, we have to figure out the location of the checkpoints. We want some to be relatively easy to find, especially in the quiz maze area by the Richardson Farm lettering. Our 2 kids' trails will be there also, so everyone will be able to find some checkpoints. However, this is the "World's Largest" corn maze and that title alone means that it has to be challenging to find all the checkpoints! Some have to be very difficult to find along with the sheer distance to be traveled. Factoid: Out of the roughly 10 miles of trails that make up the design, a person would only need to walk about ¼ of those to find all the checkpoints. The final changes to be made are to adjust the "navigation" to the checkpoints.

The corn was about 3 feet tall when the guys from MazePlay came in mid- July to roto-till the design into the field. This year, our visitor's bureau, VisitMcHenryCounty.com, took some video of the maze being cut, along with an explanation by George Richardson. Click here to watch the video. Also check our Facebook page for updates throughout the year!

In case you missed it, this is a picture of cutting the maze out last year. Shawn's tractor has GPS mounted right on it, hooked up to his computer in the tractor cab. He drives the tractor, roto-tilling the trails to "erase" the corn, so that the GPS locator dot on his computer screen follows the lines of the trails on the screen. It's fun to watch the design taking shape over the 20 hours it takes to roto-till it. After he is done, we haul in the bridges and drill-in 50 posts for the checkpoints, quiz questions, and some directional signage. Then, Wendy Richardson roto-tills the whole design again with our tractor, cleaning up surviving corn and weeds, and giving the trails a final smoothing.Then the corn grows!

Roto-tilling the trails
Wendy "cleaning up" the trails
Finally, we have a wonderful, fantastic, award-winning (hopefully), "World's Largest" corn maze tribute to the 50th Anniversary of STAR TREK! Here is the final design with the checkpoints so you can start plotting your way through. Keep an eye out in August for aerial pictures and come out in September, October for some FUN - and donuts, kettle corn, fudge, hot chocolate, train ride, etc. etc.!!!

2016 Richardson Corn Maze

By George Richardson July 2016