Corn maze designer Brad Crassweller figures he has found a way out of this year’s COVID conundrum — make a safe maze that adheres to provincial guidelines to stop viral spread.
“It’s a one-way path through the corn, with an eye-spy set-up where you look for clues as you go,” he said of the eight-acre maze’s redesign he and his family did.
They operate it out of their business on Regina’s southern outskirts, Cedar Creek Gardens.
Their initial June designs had two, traditional four-acre corn mazes each cut in patterns that, when viewed from the sky, gave a nod of recognition to first responders and healthcare workers, he said.
They would have had the regular dead-ends, narrow paths and double-back routes typical of corn mazes.
Those plans were shucked out the window after the provincial government imposed restrictions on businesses to cut the spread of COVID-19.
“We were talking with the (government’s) business response team in June about the design. They said, ‘we can’t approve that,’” Crassweller said.
It prompted him and his family to make the new layout, which incorporates clues from the big screen into the 2.5-kilometre-long path: Navigators have to guess what film the clues reference; they’ll also use five-foot-wide paths as they go.
Crassweller’s competitors, Happy Hollow near Lumsden, announced on Facebook they’re shutting down for the year, after just opening on Sept. 12.
The Facebook post said the company consulted with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), which has “now recommended new Covid protocols we would have to implement. With also being told that this could change into even stricter rules going forward.”
The apparently new protocols “would severely compromise” customers’ experiences, Happy Hollow said in the post.
No one at the business answered multiple phone calls or a Facebook message to it on Friday; the company's voicemail inbox was full.
Ministry of Health spokeswoman Colleen Book said the ministry doesn’t know what specific protocols caused Happy Hollow to shut down.
She said corn mazes aren’t prohibited from operating, as long as they do it “in a way that prevents the transmission of COVID-19,” which may mean “having to alter their traditional operations to ensure mitigation measures can be met including ensuring physical distancing between patrons, providing hand hygiene facilities, and frequent cleaning and disinfection of common touch areas.”
In an earlier Facebook post from Sept. 9, Happy Hollow said it had intended to provide those measures.
Evan Radford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Regina Leader-Post, The Leader-Post