Portland’s most popular corn maze, the Original Corn MAiZe at the Pumpkin Patch, marks its fifteenth anniversary this year. The maze is located on Sauvie Island approximately twelve miles outside of Portland. It is well worth the drive.
There are two mazes on the property: the original cornfield maize and the haunted maize (not suitable for young children). Tickets are available online. The adult fee is $7 for the original maize and $10 for the haunted maize. Entry fees are $5 for seniors and children. Children under 5-years old are free. There are also combined ticket options available.
People queue up in the chilly night air along a wide corridor through the tall corn lit only by torches, to enter the haunted maze. The excitement is palpable as people chatter, huddle together and strain their eyes to look ahead. Screams are audible from within the unseen interior corridors of the maze and anticipation fills the air. The atmosphere is a dark carnival. Remember to dress for chilly weather.
Sauvie Island formally named Wapato Island is fertile ground to claim haunting. In the 1800’s several horrifying epidemics swept over this island in the Columbia River rapidly killing nearly all of the native population and almost no evidence of these people’s existence remains on the island. The name Wapato is Chinook for arrowhead. The island was eventually renamed Sauvie after a French dairyman, Laurent Sauvie.
According to the corn maize manager, Jonathon Rawson, the original homestead where the two mazes and pumpkin patch currently exist is 45 years old. The large barn still standing on the property dates back to the 1920s. The farm in its current acreage, was originally owned by the Aiger family. In 1999 Craig Easterly and the Pumpkin Patch Farm owners built the first corn maze on the island.
As one approaches the entrance, a screen projects Children of the Corn, appropriately enough. When entering the haunted maze, be ready for a fright. You will be caught off-guard even if your night vision is fantastic. There are so many elements and surprises that one is bound to be genuinely frightened here and there and startled amply throughout. There are thirty professional actors and extra security throughout the maze. The actors do a thrilling job and never break character. One actor in particular caught my attention. After sneaking around him to get a picture, he managed to creep up behind me and get a bona-fide reaction before letting me take a photo. Since this reporter was unable to get the actor’s real name, keep your eye out for the very talented: Freddy Krueger. It seems necessary to reiterate that the haunted maze is genuinely scary and not appropriate for young children. One more note; there are strobe lights. If you are strobe sensitive or want to bring your young children, I suggest going during the day to the original corn maize, open from ten o’clock AM.
The day also offers more family friendly activities like: the big red animal barn, hayrides and a cow themed kiddy train. The Pumpkin Patch is a fully operational farm. According to Rawson the farms twenty acres produce 2 million pounds of pumpkins each year.
The allure of this event is in the details. The owners have had fifteen years to perfect this experience. Each year a design is chosen out when the corn is only 6 inches high. 4-5 construction professionals are brought in to build the maze elements, and then a crew of 4-5 professional decorators are paid to deck it out. They do so with flourish and care to detail. Finally, auditions are held to choose the best actors who will be hired to populate the maze and rehearsals begin.
When driving to the Original Corn MAiZE, do not be thrown by signs for a different corn maze, about a quarter mile up the road. The signs will say: Bella Organic Farms. This corn maze is not associated with the Pumpkin Patch Farms; it opened up just three years ago. It is well-lit and it is easy to think that you have reached your destination. You will pass Bella Organic Farms on the left. Continue driving and then turn left when you reach Pumpkin Patch Farms signs to get to the authentic article. Remember in the words of Mark Twain: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear not absence of fear.”