Fall does not just mean pumpkin spice-flavored everything; the slight cooling of the air also heralds the opening of corn mazes.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Cornfusion crop maze, paintball hayride.
WHEN: Open Friday and runs through Nov. 2. Fridays from 3 to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.
LOCATION: 13444 Moore Road, Lakeland.
TICKETS: $11 for adults, $9 for kids 5 to 10 and ages 4 and younger get in free. $30 for paintball hayride, must be 48 inches tall to ride.
CONTACT: www.smith ranchlakeland.com or 863-559-9952.
WHAT: Harvest Holler.
WHEN: Through Nov. 2. Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m., Saturdays from noon. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.
LOCATION: 950 Tavares Road, Polk City.
TICKETS: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and kids 4 to 12, and ages 3 and younger get in free.
CONTACT: www.harvestholler.com or 352-895-8687.
WHAT: Fox Squirrel corn maze.
WHEN: Through Oct. 26. Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
LOCATION: 3002 Charlie Taylor Road, Plant City.
TICKETS: $10 for adults, $9 for kids 3 to 17, and ages 2 and younger get in free.
CONTACT: www.fox squirrelcornmaze.com.
Three nearby venues offer families a wide variety of activities as well as an educational experience.
Donna Smith, owner of Smith Family Ranch in Lakeland, which runs the Cornfusion crop maze and fall festival, said the educational value of the event is her favorite part.
"We try to educate as much as we can on agriculture," Smith said. "We are a deep-rooted agriculture family. Ranching goes back for generations.
"That's one of the things we do on our hayride. It's narrated and we actually talk about the Green Swamp, the cattle industry. We talk about where your meat comes from: not McDonald's and not Publix."
Cornfusion also offers helicopter rides, new this year, for $35, as well as monster truck rides for $5.
But when the sun goes down, the zombies come to play.
The festival closes at 6 p.m. and reopens at 7 p.m. as Zombiefarm, a hayride where costumers are armed with paintball guns to defeat the swamp-dwelling undead.
"There are no lights on the trailer and when he gets to the first shooting station, he stops the tractor and the lights come on and then the zombies start coming out of the swamp," Smith said.
At Harvest Holler corn maze in Polk City, Jerry Roberts and his wife Karen offer guests hayrides, cornhole, a pumpkin patch, putt-putt golf and more for no additional fee.
Karen Roberts said she loves making homemade jam and baked goods to sell in the country store.
"I sell homemade pumpkin pies and cobbler, fresh every day," she said. "And I make all the jams here on the farm. I started out with close to 3,000 jars this year. That's what I love to do.
"I love to bake but seeing the families interact, hearing the laughter amongst families and the joy, that is probably the biggest payment of all."
The Fox Squirrel corn maze in Plant City features a 12-foot-tall, 8-acre maze and a lot of "old-fashioned" games, such as badminton and horseshoes, according to owner Janet Futch, for a one-time entrance fee.
Futch said she loves having people from the city come out to the farm and experience a different kind of environment for a few hours and learn new things.
"We have a butterfly exhibit and that's very educational because you can see the pupa and some people even get to see them hatch," Futch said. "And just being out on the farm, it is educational."
All three mazes are not made completely out of corn though. Because cornstalks in Florida do not grow as high as they do in other states, sorghum, which can reach 12 foot and looks just like cornstalks, is mixed in.
That is how Cornfusion got its name.
"Our corn is confused," Smith said. In addition to corn and sorghum, "native Florida plant life," what Smith calls yellow-flowering weeds, grows between the stalks.
"We had people get lost in the maze last year," she said. "It was the thickest and tallest we've ever had."
Lance Ferguson can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7533.