WHEELER — One church has given a whole new purpose to a cornfield that lets participants test their maze skills while weaving in fun family activities for fall.

“We have something for everyone,” St. Paul Lutheran Church Renewal Team member Valarie Engelbart said. “The main thing is we wanted a wholesome place where families could come to have a fun time.”

The corn maze was created this year by Dennis Blievernicht. A different member of the renewal team makes the maze every year.

“You never know what it will be. There is no template we go by,” Engelbart said about the corn maze. “It’s different every year.”

The St. Paul Lutheran Renewal Team started the annual event 10 years ago as a fundraiser for Blessings in a Backpack and to help families who might be experiencing hardship during Christmas.

“They pick a couple of families at Christmas who may have gone through a hardship like a house fire or a major illness,” Engelbart said. “Maybe a family that needs just a little extra show of love.”

Engelbart said the first Harvest Festival spanned one weekend.

“Since then it has blossomed more into a multi-weekend event,” she said.

The event eventually turned into a corn maze and harvest festival. The first maze spanned only 4 acres. It has grown, becoming more challenging and complicated every year. Today, the maze spans 10 acres and can be navigated at night by flashlight. It takes an hour to an hour and a half to complete.

“This year we have 10 stations throughout the maze that have stamps to help people gauge how far they have progressed,” Engelbart said.

She said each person entering the maze has a sheet of paper to attach stamps they collect from the 10 stations. Engelbart said St. Paul Lutheran Corn Maze is just a little different from other mazes.

“This is a place where you can have some family fun without it being scary and spooky. Just a fun time,” said Engelbart.

“There are no ghost or skeletons or things like that,” she added. “It’s simply a harvest celebration of God’s gift to us. A time to reflect and choose your path.”

In addition to the maze, there are activities on the grounds. For young children, there is a small straw maze and plastic pools filled with corn. A coloring station, corn hole game, garden tractor-led train and basketball goal are also available for children to enjoy.

“”We have something for any age,” Engelbart said. “Coming to the event is a great way to socialize and connect.”

Kristen Brummer brought her four children Pete, 7, Jack, 5, Mabry, 4 and Ross, 2, for some family fun at the maze and harvest festival on Saturday. Her husband, Greg, was busy with this year’s harvest at home.

“We try to come every year,” Kristen Brummer said. “It so close and something for the young kids to enjoy.”

“It’s nice not to have to travel real far to find some family entertainment while dad is busy in the field,” Brummer said.

Brummer has never been in the corn maze. Since her kids are younger, she said they like to come during the day.

“Some of those larger pumpkin patches are nice, but I can’t keep track of them all,” Brummer said. “It’s just a smaller scale and there are activities for each age level. Here I can keep them all in view.”

“We also love the food. We come to eat,” Brummer said. “It’s small town USA. Kids can be outside and run.”

Eleven-year-old twins Ellie and Katie Robinson of Charleston went through the maze and decided to take part in some of the various activities around the grounds after their journey.

“It was kind of creepy. I thought the skunks would come out and get us.” Ellie Robinson said. “And it was also hot in there.”

“We got lost,” Ellie Robinson said.

“Then we found our way out,” Katie Robinson added.

The St. Paul Lutheran Corn Maze and Harvest Festival continues next weekend Friday through Sunday, Oct. 11-13 and Friday through Sunday, Oct. 17-19. The grounds open on Friday’s from 6-10 p.m., Saturday, 3-10 p.m. and Sunday from 3-6 p.m. Cost to go through the maze is $5 for anyone over 5 years old and kids 5 and under are free. There is food and drinks available for purchase.

Engelbart said Friday nights benefit the St. Paul Lutheran Church Youth League Mission Project. Saturdays and Sundays benefit the St. Paul Lutheran Church Renewal Team. She advises checking their Facebook page www.facebook.com/St-Paul-Lutheran-Corn-Maze-and-Harvest-Festival-359234954226660/ before coming in the case of stormy weather.

St. Paul Lutheran Church is located on the Montrose and Dieterich blacktop (13204 N. 2300th St., Wheeler), 3 miles north of Dieterich and 3 1/2 miles south of Montrose.

“We only close when it is storming out,” Engelbart said. “It will still be open if we have light showers and cold temperatures.”

Charles Mills can be reached at charles.mills@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.

Reporter/Videographer

Charles Mills is reporter and videographer for the Effingham Daily News. A 1983 graduate of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, he worked as senior video editor for a Nashville television station. He is a native of Vandalia.

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