Herald JournalHerald Journal, Sept. 26, 2005

New corn maze opens in area

By Ryan Gueningsman
Staff Writer

“If you build it, they will come.”

It was modeled after the same philosophy, and it is even carved out of a corn field, but Rob Wilkening’s vision is slightly different than that of Kevin Costner in the movie “Field of Dreams.”

Wilkening, of Watertown, along with countless volunteers, have taken it upon themselves to open the West Metro Corn Maze, located just south of Watertown on Carver County Road 10, during October.

The idea for a corn maze came to Wilkening while he and a group of other people were brainstorming for fundraising ideas for a trip to Washington, D.C. planned by students who attend Christ Community Lutheran School, along with other local youth groups and organizations.

“We went to ask Vern (Rosckes, owner of the field) if we could do this for two weeks during the month of October, and he said ‘No, but you can do it for the whole month.’”

So, now, the group had an idea, and a field, they just needed to put their thoughts onto paper.

Wilkening contacted a company from Eden Prairie that helped him by doing Global Positioning to get exact measurements and to map out the maze through the field of corn.

“Without their work it would have been a lot harder,” Wilkening said. “They did an awesome job.”

That isn’t to say the group didn’t run into a few snags along the way. They received warm reception from both the City of Watertown and Watertown Township, but were unaware of the fact they needed to obtain a permit from Carver County to have such an event. Wilkening also said a tent he was planning on using throughout October was damaged in a recent storm and had to be replaced.

“We’ve had some challenges,” he said. “We’ve also found some things we need to do a lot earlier for next year.”

Finding sponsors for the corn maze also became a task for Wilkening. He enlisted his employer, Waste Management, along with Pepsi, Waconia Farm and Home Supply, Farber Sound, Thrivent Financial, which provides matching funds for the event, Bremer Bank of Watertown, and Twin Cities radio station K102.

For each weekend of the event, Wilkening has different themes in place, including Corn Country weekend, which will feature several country radio deejays Oct. 1 and 2; Family Festival weekend Oct. 8 and 9, which will feature the national band Four Shadow; Christian Music Festival weekend, which will feature local Christian bands Oct. 15 and 16; Senior Expo weekend, which will feature local favorite Chuck Thiel and the Jolly Ramblers Oct. 22 and 23; and Halloween Costume weekend, which will feature a scarecrow stuffing contest and local deejay Dr. Fun Oct. 29 and 30.

Plenty of activities for the entire family will be available throughout each weekend, as well, including pumpkin painting, hay rides, face painting, mini mazes, pumpkin toss, and tractor displays and demonstrations.

For next year’s maze, the group is planning an international theme, but Wilkening said he plans on sticking to local entertainment.

“Minnesota has some outstanding quality entertainment when it comes to artists,” Wilkening said, also citing costs as another factor of keeping it local.

Throughout the maze, Wilkening and his crew have placed informational posts about different things from Washington, D.C., and the maze itself is in the shape of the nation’s capital.

“Being we’re going to Washington, D.C., we thought we’d do it in the shape of the capitol,” he said. “In the middle is a cross, showing the bridging of the House and Senate, bringing people together.

For the first year, Wilkening said the group has kept rates lower than they possibly could have charged for admission to the 529,000-square- foot maze.

“Lower is probably good the first year,” he said, noting it costs $8 for adults, and $4 for children under 12.

He also said there is a family four-pack deal available, which consists of two adult admissions and two child admissions for $20. Larger group rates are also available.

The maze will be open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.

Wilkening has lived in Watertown for the past 20 years, and his wife, Margie, is a Watertown native. Their three children, Cassie, 16, Chris, 15, and Carissa, 12, all attend local schools.

Wilkening is a member of the Watertown-Mayer School Board, an adult leader with the Willing Workers 4-H Club, and is the president of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Watertown. Aside from working at Waste Management, he also does web site design and has a commercial truck license.

He said he is appreciative for all the help he has been given throughout the planning stages of the maze, as well as other committee members Terry Dressel, Amy Weege, and Bonnie Roy, whose sister, Charlene Anderson, lives in Winsted.

“Bonnie Roy has been a big help,” he said.

Wilkening encouraged people to visit www.westmetrocornmaze.org or call (952) 955-5040 for more information.

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