Move over Donald Driver. You've been replaced by "The Simpsons" as the design theme for the sixth year of the corn maze attraction at Meuer Farm in southwest Calumet County.
Situated just to the east of Highway 151 along the Niagara Escarpment 10 miles southwest of Chilton and 14 miles northeast of Fond du Lac, the corn maze chosen by Dave and Leslie Meuer and created by a hired professional corn maze designer recalled the 25th anniversary of the debut of the popular television sitcom cartoon show "The Simpsons," which ran for 552 episodes. Until September 1, all 552 episodes are being shown consecutively on the FXX network.
In the wake of the 2013 maze, which was a tribute to Driver, a retired Green Bay Packer player, this year's maze features images of all of the Simpson family members — Homer, Marge, Bart, Maggie and Lisa.
Other designs visible from the air in the maze are the numerals 103.9 and the letters Service Motor Co. in honor of two longtime sponsors of the maze. "The Simpsons," 25th year, and Meuer Farm are also spelled out in the visual design.
Three miles of paths are woven through and around those images. Walkers in the maze can quicken their trip by properly answering a set of questions that pertain to corn, agriculture, the Simpsons and other topics. There's also a special viewing site from a 9-foot bridge near the center of the maze.
As an agritourism and agricultural production venture, Meuer Farm caters to families but is especially dedicated to teaching children, particularly the great majority who do not live on a farm, about agriculture and conservation and use of natural resources.
One of the activities offered to the thousands of school children who visit every year is a tractor-driven wagon trip that features stops for brief presentations about a herd of beef cattle raised on the farm, maple syrup production, the growing of walnut trees, beekeeping and honey production.
A small barn has petting zoo pens in which calves of three dairy breeds, three goats, hogs and chickens are housed and fed during the primary visiting periods of the year. Among the crops grown and sold on the farm are strawberries, sweet corn and pumpkins.
Another venture to be undertaken soon will be the formulation of a dried mix to be called Meuer Farm Flavor granola. It will be made entirely with ingredients obtained on the farm — rolled oats, dried strawberries, honey and nuts — and be added to other items sold in the Busy Bee Country Store.
Items prepared to eat on site include kettle corn, caramel apples, brats, hamburgers, pizza and beverages.
In addition to the wagon ride, Meuer Farm offers a corn cannon, an 80-foot tube slide, water slide duck racing, a straw fort, puzzles marked on lawn grass and cutout boards for photos. There are fees for general admission and for some activities.
On Saturday, Sept. 20, and Sunday, Sept. 21, helicopter rides will be offered over the surrounding rural countryside between Lake Winnebago and the Niagara Escarpment. They have proved to be very popular in previous years.
Following a special one-day preview from 10 a.m. till dark on Saturday, Aug. 23, the corn maze will be open daily from Sept. 12 through Nov. 2. Hours are 1 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Glow stick walks through the maze will be available Friday and Saturday nights.
A number of the special activities and attractions have been supported by a variety of business sponsors over the years. This year's sponsor list includes Service Motor of Fond du Lac, area insurance agent Larry Schneider, Mud Creek Coffee Cafe of Stockbridge, TH Agri Chemicals, Legacy Seeds, radio station WVBO 103.9 of Oshkosh, BugTussel Wireless LLC of Hilbert, Calumet County Bank and Reinl Accounting and VandeHey Brantmeier auto dealership, both of which are in Chilton.
The sponsors, several of whom have been on the list for all or most of the six years during which the corn maze has been the major autumn attraction, have differing reasons for their participation. They support the goals indicated by Meuer Farm and, in some cases, are able to identify an increase in their business.
Sandy Schumacher of BugTussel Wireless, which has been a sponsor for three years, describes the Meuer Farm agritourism venture as "a great atmosphere for kids" and as a fine opportunity to teach both children and their parents many things about agriculture that they might otherwise "take for granted."
Because she grew up on a dairy farm near Hilbert in Calumet County, Schumacher is particularly concerned about presenting such messages and information. Having "heard good things" about Meuer Farm and wanting to support an enterprise pertaining to agriculture also motivated Schumacher to undertake a sponsorship of the business for which BugTussel provides wireless Internet service.
"It's a joy to see how happy the kids are," said Mark Krueger of Service Motor Co, which is a longtime sponsor at Meuer Farm. The attractions also appeal to entire families, he added.
Parents often notice the smaller model tractors Service Motor Co. has on display at Meuer Farm, Krueger noted. "This has led to some inquiries and a few sales.",
Sponsors also cite the importance of supporting the local community at an activity that draws people from well beyond the immediate area. Making that point were Brad Grant, president of Calumet County Bank in Brillion and Deb Thiel, manager of the bank's branch in Sherwood.
It's good for them to see cattle in person, go into a pumpkin patch and learn about the on-farm production of maple syrup and honey and the raising of walnut trees, they said. For the bank itself, the sponsorship is a way to get the institution's "name out to public" — a type of "image advertising," Grant indicated. Thiel described the sponsorship as a form of "public service."
On behalf of Larry Schneider Insurance Agency, office employee Angela Mand also mentioned "name recognition" of the business and pointed out that Schneider is a farm native who wants to support places or activities that educate the upcoming generation about farming. She said Schneider likes to shoot the farm's corn cannon — an activity with which she claim she often beats him on accuracy.
For its corn maze, other activities on the farm and participation at off-farm events, Meuer Farm earned the Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association's award as Business of the Year for 2013. More information is available at www.meuerfarm.com or (920) 418-2676 or 418-4777.