Lessons by day, frights by night

Corn mazes: Rutledge Farm is adding new sounds and special effects

ckrotzer@theolympian.comSeptember 25, 2012 

JoAnn Sabisch gave her 12-year-old daughter a hug and told her to be careful and to call if she needed anything.

A short time later she heard her daughter scream – a sure sign she was having a good time at the Rutledge Farm haunted corn maze.

Her daughter, Drew, and fellow Tumwater Grasshopper teammates were wandering their way through the horrors the maze had to offer Saturday night.

The girls were the most concerned about seeing spiders and clowns.

Sabisch has come to the farm every few years with her children.

“It’s a lot of fun and good for all ages,” Sabisch said. “During the day, it’s good for kids and they learn navigational skills using a map, and then at night they can get scared.”

The owners of Rutledge Corn Maze are hoping the addition of new props and sound effects to their haunted maze will bolster business after a so-far lackluster year.

Rick Rutledge and his nephew Robby Rutledge met with a professional company to get new ways to scare the masses by incorporating new props, sounds and special effects.

The hope is to attract new customers and to increase annual attendance from around 15,000 to 20,000.

“We know it’s slow, but usually only in August,” Rutledge said. “Back-to-school time is when it usually picks up.”

He’s hoping the opening of the haunted maze Friday will bring in more visitors

Admission is $13 for the haunted maze, which also provides access to the two larger mazes.

“We raised prices this year because everything is going up – diesel, seed, fertilizer – they have all gone up,” Rutledge said.

The haunted maze, a 1.5-acre spot filled with 15 to 30 actors poised to frighten those who pass by, takes about 20 minutes to go through and makes up 75 percent of the farm’s yearly profit.

The Rutledge family has hosted corn mazes on their property on the outskirts of Tumwater for the past 13 years.

Corn farmers for generations, the family was inspired to do a maze after a dairy farmer in the Nisqually Valley built one in 1999.

“I thought, why are dairy farmers putting in a corn maze? We grow corn, and are known for our corn,” Rutledge said.

The first year, the family had a designer come in and help mow out a pattern matching the capital building, followed by a second year highlighting a partnership with Wolf Haven International.

The designer had a break-through in 2002, Rutledge said, making the Rutledge corn maze the first to be planted instead of mowed.

Using a laptop, GPS and a planter, the designer finishes within eight hours. A few months of water and sunshine lead to the new design.

This year’s highlights Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch.

The choice was a backup plan. The farm originally planned on creating a maze themed to Fox’s comedy-drama musical series Glee, but chose to go a different direction after discovering the farm would be required to pay 20 percent of the profits to use the theme.

Shortly after, Lynch’s agent called asking if they would be interested in featuring the player in the maze.

The 8-acre design is made up of two mazes with 3.3 miles of trail.

Lynch came to the farm Sept. 1 and spent two hours signing autographs for 500 fans.

Next year’s design will likely highlight a local business that is “popular and oriented to Washington,” Robby Rutledge said.

The most popular design so far has been the “Deadliest Catch” themed maze, he added.

Robby Rutledge has spent most of his life helping out with the mazes and on the farm. He’s looking forward to this year’s changes, but promises some old favorites will remain intact.

“The one thing that has never changed is the chainsaws,” Robby Rutledge said. “I will tell the chainsaw actor a friend’s name, or use a chain saw myself and whisper their name from around the corner.

“They will be running the whole rest of the way out of the maze.”

Drew was among those being chased this past weekend. She said her favorite part was being able to experience it with her friends.

“It was so scary,” Drew said. “There was people jumping out with chain saws, and they kept following us through the turns.”

If you go

What: Rutledge Corn Maze.

Where: 302 93rd Ave. SE, Tumwater.

Phone: 360-357-3700.

Email: info@rutledge cornmaze.com.

Directions: One mile east from I-5, Exit 99.

ckrotzer@theolympian.com 360-754-5476 theolympian.com/thisjustin @chelseakrotzer

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