What started as a humble and quaint pumpkin patch has sprouted into a full-fledged “agritainment” destination for thousands of Puget Sound area families. It serves guests of all ages who seek the thrill of navigating their way through the 5+ acre corn maze, searching for and finding that perfect pumpkin in the 8+ acre pumpkin patch or braving the now infamous Haunted Woods.
For those wanting a laid back, “farmish” type visit, this Buckley-area farm offers plenty of good food options, scenic hayrides around the pumpkin patch and an animal barn full of goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens and pigs; and for those with a bit more energy who are seeking the more adrenalin-driven activities, there’s live pig and duck races, the kids’ courtyard (an overgrown playground of sorts with about a dozen kids’ activities), a huge jumping pillow, monster truck rides, zip lines, mechanical bull riding, large tube slides, pumpkin and corn shooters and our newest (and highly entertaining) activity – human foosball.
“You should be able to come here and spend at least half a day enjoying any number of activities,” says Dale Maris, who dairied on the 40-acre location for 15+ years before selling his herd and turning it into what it is today. “There’s an activity for every age group and it’s as affordable and wholesome a form of family entertainment as you’ll find anywhere.”
Maris joined forces with his sister (Joanne Templeman), brother-in-law (Steve Templeman) and mother, Kay, to form a partnership – Maris Maze, LLC – in 2000. Though it all started five years earlier at a different property with a simple 2-acre pumpkin patch, Maris Farms’ first corn maze (a rendering of Mount Rainier) was all of 4 acres and sat in what is now one of three parking lots at its current location. The Haunted Woods venue was added in 2003 and has grown into legendary scary status. There are more than 35 sets and 50+ actor-types inhabiting a 35-minute trail through a 2-acre cornfield and 2-acre forested area.
The corn “stalk” market has since yielded back an incredible return on investment as the partnership has watched this humble little business grow as strong and as tall as the stalks that attract patrons each fall.
But it was very close to not happening, Maris remembers, after a little mishap during the trail carving of that first maze back in 2000. As he began carving that first pathway, the design instructions he had in his hands fell directly into the path of the lawn mower he was using to cut out the trail. And as the shreds of paper landed beside him in the knee-high field of cornstalks, he took a deep breath, called his maze designer and asked for another set of design instructions to be sent overnight.
“I knew it (this business) could be big, but I didn’t have a lot of hope after shredding that first set of design instructions,” Maris said. “Once the season got started though, and people were actually showing up to go through this thing, I realized we had something special.”
Part of The MAiZE Group of Farmers
Maris Farms is part of a larger organization known as The MAiZE , which has more than 250 mazes in the U.S., Canada, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom. Each MAiZE affiliate offers its own form of “agritainment” in its marketplace but the group shares ideas and advice in the areas of marketing/promotions, employee training, accounting, farming, maze cutting and several other areas necessary for a successful agritainment business. There is also instant name recognition and credibility connected to this organization. Since the introduction of its first location in 1996, MAiZE sites have drawn millions of visitors. Making a name for itself, The MAiZE has attracted the attention of newspapers, television and radio stations across the country-among them: Paul Harvey News, CNN, USA Today, The Today Show, Progressive Farmer, Time, Newsweek, National Geographic and Family Circle.
Locally, Maris Farms has been featured in the Enumclaw/Bonney Lake/Sumner Courier Heralds, The (Tacoma) News Tribune, Seattle Times, Seattle PI, KOMO TV and KING 5’s Evening Magazine. Nationally, Maris Farms has had air time on National Public Radio and on MSNBC.com.