Bell's Corn Maze: Believed to be a first for Clinton County

CHAZY Several years ago, Matthew Bell and his family began reclaiming the former farm fields on their Ratta Road property. More than 30 years of tree growth had reverted the hayfields into forest. Three years ago, the Bells cleared enough to grow and sell pumpkins on a commercial scale. Last year, they planted a full 15 acres of pumpkins and squash and provided hay wagon rides to their patrons. They also sold their pumpkins and squash at local markets and markets down state and in Vermont. It was during this second year of pumpkin growing the idea of Bells Corn Maze was conceived. Mr. Bell, his wife Colleen, and their three children 10-year-old daughter Kayleigh, and four-year-old twins Sam and Makena began discussing other options for the property. We decided we wanted to create a family fun attraction. Families need a place to do something fun that isnt too expensive, Mr. Bell explained. We discussed several options, but we kept coming back to the corn maze. Mr. Bell bought a book about corn mazes, and read about them on the Internet as well. On-line conversations with experienced owners of corn mazes out west provided him with many helpful pointers. Spring and summer found the Bell family and their close friends, Jim and Chantelle Beggs, spending many nights and weekends working on the maze. In the spring, they planted five acres of pumpkins and about eight acres of corn. The corn was planted in two directions. Once the corn was up, they counted every row. Mr. Bells background in drafting came in handy when he made up the grid. Mrs. Beggs provided the artistic touches. Once the corn was knee-high, they cut out the maze paths and rototilled them to keep the corn from growing back. The opening of the Bells Corn Maze Aug. 17 may have been a historic event. As far as the Bell family knows, they are the owners and operators of the first and only corn maze in Clinton County. The maze is composed of five interconnected pumpkin shaped mazes, two with jack-o-lantern faces. Maze-goers are all given a paper copy of the maze before beginning. Each maze has an orange wooden box with an ink pad and stamp in it. Children who collect all five stamps on their paper maze can select a small prize at the completion of the maze. Teens and adults who collect all five stamps can put their name and phone number in a weekly drawing for a corn maze T-shirt. It takes an average of 45 minutes to an hour for most people to complete the maze, although some have been known to take much longer. In addition to the main maze, there is also a small, simple kiddie maze, and a large corn kernel play box for young children. Tractor-pulled hay rides to the five-acre pumpkin patch are still available. The Bells maze has proved to be a popular destination for many families and groups, who find the maze to be fun and challenging. On the afternoon of Oct. 20, a Girl Scout troop and the Bits and Bridles 4-H club, both from Saranac, were among the maze-goers. New 4-Her Cade Casey was the first from his group to find an orange box with a stamp. He enthusiastically shared his discovery with the other club members who followed the sound of his calls of, I found it! It was fun, Cade said of his corn maze experience. It was funny when Christine and Marissa [two of the older teen members] got lost in the kiddie maze. Since its opening, the Bells corn maze has been bringing many smiles to many faces. They have been opened every Friday from 5 to 9 p.m., every Saturday from noon to 9 p.m., and every Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., with a few select nights set aside as Fright Nights. On these nights, the maze is full of automated monsters and volunteers dressed up in scary costumes attempting to scare maze-goers. The Bells have had no shortage of volunteers. Their first group of volunteers was from the Chazy Youth Hockey Program. Another week, the Junior Cadet Chazy Girl Scouts lent a helping hand. Chazy Central Schools Students Against Destructive Decisions chapter also helped out and handed out information about their mission and purpose. The Bells plan on thanking these volunteer organizations with donations. This Sunday, Oct. 28, will be the last day of operation for this years corn maze, while this Saturday, Oct. 27, will be the last Fright Night. It has been successful, Mr. Bell said of the maze, especially considering that this is the first year.

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