LAMBERTVILLE - Marcia and Mark Crots cooked up the idea for a corn maze in 2001 to earn extra cash for the holidays.
The couple carved out several miles of intricate paths through a 40-acre corn field on land farmed by Mrs. Crots' father on Temperance Road in Whiteford Township.
"We needed money for Christmas after my husband left his family business," Mrs. Crots said.
With the help of their daughter and two sons, the Crots charged admission to maze-goers and staffed a concession stand for the weekend-only business.
Crots Corn Maze is among the mazes that sprout annually in Monroe County corn fields. Most open in September when the summer heat tends to subside.
The designs of the mazes change annually. Among the items carved out this year on the Crots' field are a truck, grain silo, bale elevator, and chainsaw.
While other corn-maze operations invest thousands of dollars in marketing, advertising, and maze cutting, the Crotses have kept it simple, and have elected to keep it to a Saturday and Sunday business.
"We try to keep it like a family thing. We don't hire outside help. It is just our family," Mrs. Crots said. "We try to keep it affordable for families."
A portion of the profit from the Crots maze is donated each year to a missionary family supported by their church.
Because their children are now adults (sons are 19 and 20 and their daughter is 22), the Crots have thought about giving up the maze attraction.
"I don't know how much longer we will be doing this. We started out when the kids were growing up. Now they are leaving," Mrs. Crots said.
New to the corn maze scene is Uncle Sam's Corn Maze, also in Whiteford Township, near U.S. 23.
Co-owner Elizabeth Soss hired a professional maze cutter from Idaho to cut Halloween designs of Frankenstein, bats, and pumpkins into a 26-acre cornfield.
"We were going to do it last year, but it got too late in the season," she said. "It came to fruition this year."
The corn mazes in Monroe County are:
•Crots Corn Maze, 4800 West Temperance Rd. near Lambertville. Size: 40 acres. Hours: 11 a.m. to dark Saturday and 1 p.m. to dark Sunday, Sept. 19 until Nov. 1. Cost: $5.50 adults, $4.50 children ages 5 to 15, and free for kids younger than 5. Group rates available. Wheelchair and stroller accessible. Design: Various shapes. Information: 734-856-7183 or Cornmaze.itgo.com.
•Farmer Charley's Maze Adventures, 6421 North Stony Creek Rd., Monroe. Size: 10 acres. Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Open: Aug. 27 though Nov. 1. Cost: $10 adults, free for children age 3 and younger. Senior and group rates available. Design: Wizard of Oz. Information: 734-240-0825 or Farmercharleys.com.
•Farmer J's Corn Maze, Pherdon Road behind Cabela's in Dundee, Mich. Size: 15 acres for three mazes. Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Open through Nov. 2. Cost: $9.50 adults, $5 children ages 6 to 10, and free for kids 5 and younger. Group rates available. Design: wild animals. Information: 734-216-6230 or cornmazefun.net/farmer.html.
•Uncle Sam's Corn Maze, 6263 Sterns Rd., Ottawa Lake (Exit 1). Size: 26 acres. Hours: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. go 10 p.m. Sunday. Open Sept. 9 though Nov. 1. Cost: $10 for adults, $8 children ages 5 to 11, and free for kids 4 and under. Group rates available. Design: Frankenstein and Halloween items. Information: 734-854-3752.