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Developing and Marketing Mazes for Public Entertainment

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Dr. Ron Heiniger

    1. Is there an audience for your product?
      1. One of the most important questions that needs to be answered in developing a maze for profit is whether or not there is an audience for this product. To determine the answer you need to evaluate your demographics.
        1. How is your potential site located in respect to population centers?
        2. Are you in an area where people are seeking alternative entertainment venues?
        3. Are you close to major transportation arteries so people can get to the site? (Remember that just being close to a highway or interstate is not enough. People must be enticed to stop and take time to visit your site. This means that other entertainment, lodging, or food centers must be available to the public near your location)
        4. Do you have an identified core audience that you can count on to visit your maze? Church groups, civic organizations, boy scouts, school groups, etc.
        5. Do you have other activities (pumpkin patch, farmer’s market, etc) that can draw customers who might not visit just to walk through a maze?
    2. Drawing an audience and Keeping an audience
      1. It is always best to start with a core audience that has expressed an interest in your product. A core audience can help you plan your investment in money and time to set up a maze and, once they enjoy the experience, they become your best advertisement to help attract other customers. Most core audiences for a maze are customers of farmer’s markets, church groups looking for a fun family activity, boy scout or other youth groups, school classes looking for a learning activity (might combine with gps or other teaching experience), 4H groups who know the farm or other local civic groups.
      2. A well-planned advertising campaign aimed at the right target audience or tied in to a local event can be successful in bringing in a audience to sample the maze.
        1. Do people stop on their way to the beach for food or lodging and need a fun break? Then brochures in eating places and hotels or roadside billboards would be a good investment.
        2. Are you mainly interested in local audience with free time on the weekends? Then advertisements in papers or on radio and TV would work well. (Often you can get some free advertising by getting a local reporter to report on the “New or unique” aspect of your maze such as the picture it shows or the event it commemorates.)
        4. Successful mazes have attracted an audience, given them a memorable experience, and then retained a repeat audience. So keep in mind that you need to make the experience something they will enjoy and talk about. Often, this means doing something more than just letting them walk through a maze. Some have live music and shows in the evening, some use tricks like nighttime flashlight walks or events around Halloween with scarry creatures coming from the maze, some use educational tricks where the audience answers questions, ice cream nights or pumpkin patch experiences are used along with the maze, some tie the maze to an event such as the Wright Bros. first flight ceremony. Most successful theme parks find one or two new ideas each year to keep the audience coming back. You will need to do the same.
        5. Look for ideas constantly. The survivor shows use “challenges” that often can be incorporated into a maze experience. When you find a good idea focus you maze design, advertising, and effort on that key idea. Remember the advertising and design of the maze experience go hand-in-hand. Get your idea and audience identified first then start planning your maze. A good picture may not be the best maze if it doesn’t interest your audience.
        6. Get some feedback from your audience. Have them fill out a simple exit questionnaire telling what they liked or didn’t like. This can be valuable in helping design new themes for the next season.
    3. Identify and prepare your site
      1. As with any enterprise, the marketing is the most critical and often the most difficult. Any idea can be turned into a maze experience but if there is no interest then it is a waste of time. Once you have identified your marketing plan then you select a site that suits your plan.
        1. Do you have to be close to a roadside stand or to eating places or hotels?
        2. Do you need to have a place for music or ice cream?
        3. Don’t forget parking.
        4. An isolated site is best only if you’re giving country tours as part of the package or if the mystery of finding your maze is half the fun.
        5. Do you have a good site for crop growth? This is usually the last thing to consider but if your site is full of weeds and hasn’t been limed in 20 years you may regret your decision.
      2. Prepare your site. You may need electricity close by. Often music adds to the experience so don’t forget you may need loud speakers. Do you have a way that people not wanting to walk the maze can see the maze design?? Bridges and other overlooking structures are often parts of commercial mazes.
      3. Usually, flat sites are best for the process of cutting the design but hilly sites have and can be used with some consideration for obstructions of step changes in elevation.
    4. Plant your crop to get the most foliage for the period you will have the maze open.

Typically, this means planting later than you normally would plant a crop. Therefore, you need to increase populations, use some form of insect control, keep the crop from lodging by planting in narrow rows or cross planting, etc. Keep the crop well fertilized and watered. Increase nitrogen by 50% over normal practices. This will keep the maze very green and will increase drought tolerance. If you have some way to irrigate then this would help eliminate potential drought problems.

  1. There are two good ways to cut out the design.
    1. Use of a grid. – This must be done early when the crop is at the three-leaf stage. Uses a measured grid to draw the lines. Cutting is done with chemical spray or by tiller.
    2. Use of handheld GPS system. Need special hardware and software to convert the design to a geo-rectified map. GPS equipment then allows you to trace the map on the field. Cutting can be done later in the growth of the crop (still before the seven-leaf stage) and can be done with mower, chemical, or tilling.
  2. Remember that you are in the entertainment business. Look for smiling faces as a sign of your success.