When COVID-19 arrived in force this spring, the family that runs the iconic Chilliwack Corn Maze and Pumpkin Farm thought they might have to pull the plug on the popular attraction for the first time in decades.
Instead, they saw it as a challenge to share a message of positivity, while giving families safe access to a fun, annual tradition.
From above, the seemingly random maze of pathways cut through a 12-acre corn field resolves into a pair of hands holding a heart, and the message “together.”
“One of the messages that we really felt we wanted to give to people is that you’re not alone, even though in the midst of planning it we were all alone,” co-operator Vanessa Oddy told Global News.
“Together we can share hope, together there’s love and peace and compassion. We can do it together.”
Back in the spring, the farm cancelled its Easter egg hunt and other activities, but in May they decided to plant the corn field anyway.
Oddy’s brother-in-law, Steve Miller, then set about the nerve-wracking challenge of carving out his first-ever maze — a job with no room for mistakes.
“As we were cutting it, we just flew a drone over it to have a little look-see — not that there was much we could do about it at that point,” said Miller.
With help from some experienced corn-maze carving friends from Calgary, the Chilliwack crew also built in some crucial differences into this year’s pattern.
“We do actually have a lot of wider areas in the maze this year because of the social distancing requirements we’re doing,” said Miller.
“The paths are wider and there are what we’re calling bubbles … where there’s an intersection, there is a bigger spot for people to pass.”
Wider spaces aren’t the only change. Oddy said the family is working from a 20-page COVID-19 safety document and have limited capacity and require people to pre-book their visits online.
Oddy said she hopes the farm, which will stay open until Oct. 31, will be a place where families can find a break from the stress of the pandemic this year.
“We’ve always considered it a place to gather, where people come with their families, they have fall traditions — and suddenly they can’t gather,” she said.
“We looked at it and we thought you can still be together, you can still feel the heart of each other through this word, and the maze and people can come out in their social units and be together now — we’re so excited.”
-With files from Paul Johnson