By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
FLY CREEK – For her son William’s 12th birthday, Ellen Pernat had the idea to go to a corn maze. “We couldn’t find one close by,” she said. “And I didn’t want to drive three hours.”
So they built one.
Now in its third year, the Fly Creek Valley Corn Maze is one of the region’s most popular autumn attractions, drawing as many as 500 visitors a day to try and navigate the wrong turns, switch-backs and loops of the six-acre maze.
“We were featured in an ‘I Love NY’ ad,” said her husband Mark Pernat. “We have people come from New Rochelle, Plattsburgh, specifically to walk our maze.”
The long-time dairy farmers had always grown pumpkins for their kids, but as dairy prices continued to drop, they began looking for other ways to provide for their family.
“We sold some pumpkins on the side of the road and started making hundreds of dollars,” she said. “So I said to Mark, ‘Why not do a corn maze?’”
Mark’s brother Matt is in charge of designing the maze every year, taking his riding mower out into the field and cutting all the twists, turns, dead ends and circles when the corn is waist-high. The corn itself is cross-planted so visitors can’t see through the rows, and heavily fertilized so it grows tall enough to block a view of any mountains that might help orient a guest.
If you’re truly lost, you may meet Alex Pernat, known to his parents as “the Maze Runner.”
“He knows the whole maze,” she said. “If it’s been awhile since we’ve seen someone, we send him in
so he can lead them out – if they want.”
But be careful – you may find yourself exiting back out the entrance. “We call it the ‘Sign of Shame,’” said Ellen. “And we make you take a picture with it before you go back in the maze.”
There is also a kid maze – a figure 8 – and a soybean maze for the littlest. “We used to have more games, but because of COVID, we had to put them away,” said Ellen.
They’ve also added a pumpkin patch, and their corn-hole boards are still available for use.
In addition to the daytime hours, they also offer some night tours, including one this past Friday, Oct. 2.
“We always tell people to bring flashlights, but with the full moon on Friday, you didn’t even need one,” said Ellen.
For the very brave, on Saturday, Oct. 24, and Friday, Oct 30, the corn maze is haunted by the Pernats and their friends.
“Last year, I was hiding with a pumpkin mask and holding a chainsaw, and this group came by and said, ‘You don’t scare us, pumpkin man,’” said Matt. “But they weren’t looking behind them, so I followed them for a ways, and when they came to a T, I went up right behind a woman and whispered, ‘You should go right,’ and she screamed!”