By KEN BECK
You know fall has arrived when folks pay good money to get lost in a cornfield.
But what most families with young 'uns find is a barnyard full of fun to go around.
Steve and Barbara Pearcy's Shuck-n-Shack Corn Maze in Lascassas is one of several corn mazes harvesting tourists and homefolks alike this season in Rutherford County. What marks their attraction as a-mazing is seven acres of corn with two mazes based on the theme of Transformers Bumblebee, and the fact that their swaths through the cornfield were professionally designed.
"Steve told me several years ago, 'You know, I think we can do a corn maze and do it better than anybody else,'" says Barbara, his wife of 27 years and Shuck-N-Shack hostess. "I said, 'OK, let's give it a go.'"
"I already had an interest in agritourism and we were headed that way already. We were in the strawberry business, so this will all blend in together," said Steve, 54, who has operated P&P Strawberry Farm for the past 14 years while he also runs Pearcy's General Merchandise in the heart of Lascassas.
As for their green, green maze of home, this cornfield holds two mazes: one twists and turns for two miles and the shorter one meanders seven-tenths of a mile.
"We contacted a professional company, MazePlay (the business is located in Firth, Idaho), and they came in and cut a pattern in our corn patch," said Barbara, who grew up in Woodbury, the daughter of Bobby Joe and Phyllis Young. "You can choose from 100 or more patterns. If you have an idea, they will do that, too.
"First, you put in a late corn crop. Later, MazePlay comes out with a tractor with a GPS and a computer system. The operator programs the maze, and he drives the outer perimeter of the field before he starts. The GPS system calculates and literally guides the tractor, with a 4-foot tiller attached, through the fields which makes the path. It takes about three hours to cut."
Another facet of this maze is that visitors are given a cardboard souvenir map. Each of the two mazes has six checkpoints with a hole punch at each site. Thus, you can punch into your map to prove you made it to each checkpoint. Children that register at each checkpoint receive a treat or novelty toy for negotiating their way around the labyrinthe.
Barbara said it normally takes her and Steve about an hour to hit all the checkpoints in the larger maze the first time they tackle it.
The Pearcys' son Jonathan, 25, who works at Mid-South Bus in Murfreesboro, also helps at the site.
"He always puts our checkpoints up every year, and he helps me run the hay rides and the entry admission," said his mother.
Added attractions at Shuck-N-Shack include farm animals, pumpkin bowling, rubber duck chute racing, a hay mountain, hay rides ($1), games of corn hole, an indoor kiddie maze of square hay bales, a pumpkin patch (prices range $1-$5 and most were grown by the Pearcys) and a corn cannon (two shots for a $1).
"A big hit is our corn grain bin that children can get in and cover themselves up with corn," said Barbara.
Already field trips are planned by school groups coming from elementary schools in Lascassas, Smyrna and Rockvale. Shuck-N-Shack gives back a dollar to local parent-teacher organizations in the county for each customer (child or adult) who comes with a school group.
For Barbara, the highlight of their cornfield in peaceful Lascassas is "seeing these children come through. They love it. They want to stay forever."
Ah, and there is one more plus, she says, "We harvest the corn after this is over with."