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Marketing Savvy Helps Corn Maze Grow
When there’s a lot of competition, a business needs to stand out. The Willard family, owners of the Wild West Maze have a knack for excelling in marketing that incorporates Facebook, Twitter and short, snappy YouTube videos with a corncob-microphone-wielding hostess. Plus they continuously add new events, such as “Mutton Bustin” for kids this year.
  A couple of years ago, the family in Hudson, Colo., operated what is believed to be the world’s largest corn maze (about 50 acres). Last year they cut back the size to focus on refining their agritourism business to make it entertaining enough to become their guests’ annual tradition. Visitors could jump on a giant jumping pillow, or crawl inside a hamster ball. Or if they were daring enough, go through the maze at night with people in gorilla suits ready to surprise them.
  The 2012 season (September through October) featured 6 miles of maze on 25 acres with a “Cowboys & Aliens” theme. The Willards also set aside days for people to bring horses and dogs through the maze.
  Kevin and Heather Willard decided to create the maze in 2010 to diversify their farm operation, W-Spur Hay Company. Kevin has a huge barn to store small square bales of alfalfa hay that he sells mostly to hobby farmers as well as large equine facilities, so the Willards were used to having customers come to the farm.
  But it wasn’t anything like the first year with the maze, recalls daughter Kylee Willard, the YouTube host who reports “from the corncob”. People poured in to go through the maze and enjoy the many other activities on the farm.
  The Willards and their three children appreciated the community support that helped them through their first year; the business employed 60 seasonal workers.
  The family hires Maze Play to cut the maze, using the Willards design ideas. After the maze is cut, the Willards mow the paths and work on other activities.
  While they have the system down, each family member adds new ideas to keep the operation appealing to visitors. Willard’s brother, Seth, was in charge of Mutton Bustin this year, for example.
  The general admission fee ($12-adults) includes several free activities: petting zoo, hayrack rides, an obstacle course and Farm Scene Investigation (FSI). FSI asks farm-related questions, as part of the Willards’ goal to provide education about agriculture in an entertaining way. The farm’s location is within a half hour of Denver and Greeley, close enough to attract city folks.
  For additional fees or an unlimited pass ($18 to $22 for adults), visitors can ride a barrel train, shoot ear corn from a cannon or take pony rides. There’s also a pumpkin patch and special Halloween activities as the season runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 31.
  Kids, 4 and under, are admitted free of charge.
   Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Wild West Maze, 6876 Weld County Road 47, Hudson, Colo. 80642 (ph 303 536-9200; www.wildwestmaze.com).

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2012 - Volume #36, Issue #6