by Kendall Rainer
One of the many traditions associated with fall is going to a pumpkin patch or corn maze.
At’l Do Farms offers both festive family fun activities to Lubbock residents and those from the surrounding area.
At’l Do Farms opened its gates for their 19th year of having a corn maze for the public on Sept. 14. The maze will remain open through the fall season until Nov. 9. At’l Do Farms is located at 6323 FM 1294 in Lubbock.
Hours of operation are 6 p.m. to 9 p.m, Tuesday through Friday. Their weekend hours are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, and 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. The farm also relies on good weather to stay open. When there’s a lot of rain, the farm has to close because the maze is too muddy for people to walk through. In the event of bad weather, visitors may keep their tickets and return at a later date.
The farm features a main intricate corn maze with eight different “Maize Passports” that help you solve the maze. There also is a very straight forward maze called Fairy Tale Trail for younger children.
Children and adults can take a ride on the cow train in barrels that are pulled by a tractor.
The farm also features a corn cannon, with guests getting three tries to shoot ears of corn at targets in a field to win prizes.
Two hayrides are offered, including one that will take you to the pumpkin patch, where you can pick pumpkins ranging in price from $1 to $20. The other will take you through Pumpkin Hollow at night, where there are around 150 jack-o-lanterns. Some of the jack-o-lanterns have designs featuring both Marvel and DC comic characters, local university and college logos, patriotic-themed pumpkins and cartoon characters.
“In 2002, we added the cow train and corn cannon, and by 2003 we had added the hay-rides and Pumpkin Hollow,” said Patti Simpson. “After that, we didn’t really add any attractions, but we began working on our grounds. We dug the pond and planted the trees and the grass.”
On Saturdays and Sundays, the farm also has horse rides for $5. A campfire can be rented for $30 for two hours.
James and Patti Simpson have been making the maze on their land since 2001. The Simpsons said that the farm has been in Patti’s family for generations. The couple began farming cotton, grain, sorghum, and wheat.
As farming is a seasonal business, the Simpsons said they began to look for a way to diversify their business in the offseason.
“We saw an article in a Progressive Farmer magazine (about corn mazes) in December (2000), and we opened the business in September (2001),” Patti Simpson explained. “So not very long after we saw it we figured it was something we wanted to do. By March or April, we decided we wanted to make a maze.”
Patti Simpson said that they felt the new business would be a great way to work as a family and do something different but still be able to use their agricultural roots and the land they already possessed.
This year’s maze design features the word “Lubbock,” wind turbines, and the Texas Tech University logo, along with clouds with lightning, a tornado, and a chaparral bird, the mascot of Lubbock Christian University.
When you start the maze, you come up to a sign that has multiple mailboxes where you can choose from a variety of “Maize Passports” that provide different ways to get through the maze. Each passport has questions corresponding to numbered posts within the maze. The questions vary in difficulty, and give answer choices that have either left or right in parenthesis next to them indiciating which way to go. If you get the wrong answer, you will most likely end up lost or taking a long way around. The questions have varying topics, such as Girl and Boy Scouts, Bible verses, farm animals and more.
Some of the more interesting maze designs from previous years featured the Masked Rider mascot, along with the Texas Tech logo, in 2004, a Lubbock-themed maze featuring a horse and a roper in 2006, a Buddy Holly-themed maze featuring a silhouette of the singer in 2011, “The Wizard of OZ” 75th anniversary, featuring the four main characters in 2013, a representation of the American Gothic painting in 2015, and a veteran-themed maze featuring a saluting soldier next to an American flag in 2018.
“A lot of times we try to see what is going on around us and usually something stands out,” Patti Simpson said of how designs are chosen. “We do try to do things that represent our area like Buddy Holly.”
Patti Simpson said that the process of creating the maze starts with planting the corn on a North and South and East and West axis, creating a grid pattern. The design for the maze is then drawn on grid paper.
“When the corn is about six inches tall, we go through with the design and a back sprayer (to kill the corn plant), and we spray out the design using that pattern,” said Patti Simpson. “We mark the field with numbered and lettered flags to give us a reference point.”
Spraying out the design takes about three days, according to James Simpson, and then they continue to irrigate and water the crops until they are fully grown.
James Simpson said that the farm attracts around 40,000 to 55,000 guests per year. The busiest time of the year is the first three weekends in October, mainly Saturdays.
“People come from a pretty good distance,” said James Simpson. “We’ve had people from Abilene, we’ve had people from Hobbs (New Mexico). So it does attract people from a pretty good distance.”
James Simpson said that he believes his farm and maze stand out from others because they have stayed true to their farming roots.
“There are others that have ventured out and do a lot of amusement stuff, and it’s more of a carnival atmosphere,” James Simpson said. “We don’t offer as much as other mazes, but we try to be really good at what we do offer and try to keep it farm-oriented.”
At’l Do Farms also is a site for numerous field trips during the weekdays before normal operating hours for local schools. There also is an event offered every year called “Homeschool Days At The Maze,” which they held on Oct. 1 this year.
At’l Do Farms doesn’t only do mazes. During the offseason (December – August), the venue can be rented out for weddings, corporate events, and private parties. The venue has a rustic barn with seating and lighting.
“Once we decided to be open year-round and have a venue for events, that is when we decided to build the barn,” said Patti Simpson.
They also have a windmill decorated with lights in the foreground with a pond and fountain in the background.
Patti Simpson said that one improvement that they will begin to work on in the offseason is re-building the concession stand and build it out of a grain silo.