Rocky Creek Maze offers agri-tainment (video)
Oct. 9, 2012 at 5:09 a.m.
Updated Oct. 10, 2012 at 5:10 a.m.
MOULTON - Life at Chaloupka Farm was quiet Oct. 2 as people milled around. Some made repairs, others tested equipment and still more made other last-minute preparations.
And it was all in an effort to get people lost.
The farm's Rocky Creek Maze, now in its sixth year, opened Friday with autumnal attractions for the Crossroads.
The maze first opened in 2007 as the brainchild of farm co-owner Gene Chaloupka. He said he'd heard of other farms doing something similar and thought it was worth looking into.
Although it began as a way to supplement the farm, the family discovered a passion for the work, said Helen Chaloupka, another of the owners.
Today, Rocky Creek offers more than mazes.
A variety of attractions, including a hay slide, butterfly garden, inflatable "Frog Hopper" bounce and more join the mix, while a spider web climb is new for 2012. For those who like something a bit scarier, a haunted trail is also available in October.
Corn mazes are a growing trend everywhere, said Kamille Combs, marketing and public relations director for The Maize, the company that helped develop Rocky Creek's maze.
Part of that popularity comes from the additional revenue mazes can generate. Farming isn't easy, she said, and every bit helps.
"They turn to this as a way to stay on the farm and make a living," she said. "Sometimes they make money and sometimes they don't, but it's a change that more and more farmers are making."
The Maize works with about 260 farms worldwide, she said.
Costs associated with developing and running such an endeavor vary depending on the operation.
Smaller farms can devote tens of thousands of dollars once they calculate in farm costs, labor expenses, attractions and more, she explained. Larger farms might shell out hundreds of thousands.
"It's more than I think the public realizes," she said.
The Chaloupkas agreed it's no easy undertaking. In addition to the hours that go into running it, there's still the daily dairy work that must get done.
"It's a hard day and it's a long day, but it's so rewarding," Helen said. "We love it."
Last year's maze brought between 7,000 and 9,000 visitors, she said. Already for 2012 the farm has booked about 40 field trips.
Catherine Boehm, administrative assistant with Faith Academy's elementary campus, is responsible for a number of those trips.
The school takes its students age 5 through sixth grade to the maze annually, she said, explaining it's not only fun, but educational, too.
"They teach the kids the different uses for corn and they get to see a live dairy," she said. "A lot of times, the kids don't realize milk doesn't just come from H-E-B until you actually take them out there."
With two children who went through the campus, Boehm said she's attended the field trip six or seven times. This will be her first year without it.
"It'll be strange not to be out there," she said.
Through the years, the Chaloupkas said, plenty of memories made their marks on the family.
Helen recalled one November when Mother Nature brought an unexpected snowfall. Another night, during the haunted trail's first year, sparked another memory.
She and the other owners decided to venture through the trail but, beforehand, let the staff know they could leave once they went through. A little boy just ahead of the owners' group, however, wasn't comfortable with the set-up.
"I just remember that look on his face," she said, noting he kept looking behind him for ghouls and goblins. "He went around to his grandma and just said, 'They're following us!'"
Meanwhile, Helen's husband and fellow farm co-owner Junior Chaloupka recalled an incident from the first day the maze ever opened. That night, a white limousine filled with women from an assisted living facility pulled into the lot.
"The youngest person who came in was 84 years old, but she wanted to ride the barrel train," he said, noting the staff lifted her into a seat. "After that, we cut the sides out of the back barrel. It's our handicap barrel, and it's a little more comfortable."
Looking forward, the family said they hope to continue growing the maze - larger-than-life hay sculptures are one idea - and offering ways for Crossroads kids to learn about agriculture.
"We like passing that on, teaching people something new," Helen said. "We're all farmers at heart."