When the Richardson family sat down to brainstorm the theme for this year's gigantic corn maze, it wasn't an easy task. After all, the last three mazes each set new attendance records by celebrating the Chicago Cubs World Series, Chicago Black Hawks Stanley Cup and Star Trek's 50th Anniversary.
They finally selected Illinois' Bicentennial, honoring the 200th anniversary of the state's founding. Once that was done, the design came naturally.
The 28-acre rectangle is bordered on the west by the Mississippi River and on the east by Lake Michigan, Navy Pier and Chicago skyscrapers. The state capitol and Abraham Lincoln dominate the center, along with symbols of Illinois agriculture with a barn, silo, tractor, row crops, apple trees and pumpkins. (Did you know that Illinois produces more pumpkins than any other state? And that America's first silo was built near Spring Grove?)
Located just an hour's drive northwest of Chicago, Richardson Adventure Farm has been in the family since 1840, and they planted their first corn maze in 2001. Over the years, it has become an annual destination for family fun, with a new 28-acre maze every year, plus more than 30 activities, including wagon rides, pig races, a vintage carousel and a "park train" that runs on real tracks. Most of the activities are included in the admission fee. Only a few, such as the zip line and Zorb rides, cost extra. Private picnic sites with campfires are available by reservation, and there's plenty of free parking.
What's new this year? "We've added a taco truck and a wood-fired pizza truck," said Wendy Richardson. "That's in addition to our full concession stand, plus ice cream and homemade donuts, fudge and kettle corn. And we're building another big pavilion and more restrooms close to the jumping pillows."
Admission in September is $17 for ages 13 and up, and $14 for ages 4-12. October/November weekend prices are $19 for ages 13 and up and $17 for ages 4-12. Free for ages two and under.
Richardson Adventure Farm is open Sept. 1 through Nov. 4, Thursdays through Sundays, plus Labor Day and Columbus Day. For more details, visit www.RichardsonAdventureFarm.com.