By AMANDA KIMBLE
ERATH COUNTY (September 30, 2016) – Activities at Lone Star Family Farm are in full swing. For anyone unaware of the happenings at the farm – it offers hours of family fun.
From the giant corn maze and pumpkin patch to hayrides, farm animals, photo ops and array of games, the farm’s fourth season offers something for everyone. The Texas-sized corn maze is back, but it’s bigger and better than before.
Josh Ritchey, owner and operator, said more than an acre has been added to the corn maze, which now spans about 9 acres. Adding to the challenging duration of the maze are cornstalks that measure up to eight feet tall and a late planting season that helps the stalks stay fuller longer.
“We replant the corn annually, in early July,” Ritchey said. “That’s late for around here, but we try to keep it green as long as possible. Once it starts drying down, the corn maze is less thick and easier to see through.”
Throughout the maze, participants log checkpoints, but Ritchey said it’s rare for all of them to be collected in a single visit. Ritchey said finding all of the checkpoints while traversing the twists and turns of the corn maze would take about three hours.
“I think we had a few kids last year who made it through in two-and-a-half hours,” he said. “And, it’s reasonably tougher this year than last year.”
It’s tough, but not impossible. And individuals with a bad sense of directions need not fret. A number of guides are scattered throughout the corn maze, on the lookout for visitors who’ve lost their way and children who may have separated from their group.
“We have a protocol in place to make sure everyone enjoys their visit,” Ritchey said.
For the Ritchey family, the acres of fun in serious business. Lone Star Family Farm is a working, producing farm they obtained in 2013 through a USDA financing program available to young farmers.
“We have a mortgage to pay and opening our gates to the public in the fall is a part of that,” Ritchey said.
The attraction also has a number of local sponsors that help keep it operational and in public view.
To keep attendees coming back for a challenge, the family calls on professional design firm Maize Quest Corn Mazes. The company uses GPS coordinates to carve out an entertaining, unique layout.
The length of the giant maze, sand that is deeper in some locations and size of the attraction make it sometimes difficult for young children, but Lone Star Family Farm also offers a kiddie maze.
“We’ve tried to create something for the whole family,” Ritchey said.
Two new attractions, a souped barrel train and corn cannon that rockets kernels at targets, are available for a small added fee this year.
The facility also offers a hay bale maze and pyramid, giant slides, corn and sand pits, roping dummies, farm animals, games of corn hole, stick horse barrel racing and more.
This year’s specials included free admission opening weekend, September 24 and 25, for educators, and first responders will get to enjoy the same perks Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 1 and 2.
“We appreciate responders and what they do, so we just wanted to give them a tip of the hat,” Ritchey said.
Lone Star Family Farm is located at 4199 U.S Highway 67, toward Glen Rose.
The attraction will remain open until November 19, which is longer than previous years. Hours of operation are 4-10:30 p.m. on Fridays, 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 1:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. on Sundays through the end of October. November hours will be 10:30 a.m.- 6 p.m. Saturdays only, through the 19th.
Special group hours can be arranged for visits throughout the week, and there are also special deals for private parties. A reservation request form can be found on online or arrangements can be made by calling 682-498-3276.