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Get Lost in the Maize

Temple Hall Farm Regional Park's Corn Maize opens this weekend.

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An aerial view taken by helicopter of this year's corn maize, which features a giant birthday cake and a logo of the 250th anniversary of Leesburg.

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The Temple Hall Farm Regional Park Corn Maize opens this weekend.

Reminiscent of strolling through elaborately-designed hedge gardens in England, the 2008 corn maize officially opens at Temple Hall Farm Regional Park, a 286-acre farm off Route 15, this weekend. Now in its ninth season, the farm is open three days a week: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from Sept. 25 to Nov. 2. This year, the corn maize is 24 acres in a design celebrating Leesburg's 250th anniversary.

"IT'S FUN to get lost," Kelly Weddington, park ranger, said. "We have numbered signs along the maize and there's a passport this year that we've added."

For those new to the experience, the passports pose clues via questions and answers on a variety of subjects. Passport topics include the 250th anniversary of the Town of Leesburg, the subject of Boy Scouting, Girl Scouting and 4-H. Depending on the answer, visitors can turn right or left at different intersections inside the maize.

For example, there's the question, "Who owns the Potomac River?" 1.) Virginia (turn left); 2.) Maryland (turn right); 3.) Both (turn right). The answer is "B" Maryland. If visitors get lost, there are numbered posts and park staff called "Corn Cops" stationed along the route to guide them through.

The daytime maize is separate from the night maize experience. Although it's not lit up at night, visitors can bring flashlights along.

The Challenge is somewhat "moderately difficult" said Weddington, who says the older the visitor, it seems, the more assistance they'll need. "It's certainly a lot of fun," she added.

This year's maize design features a giant birthday cake and a logo of the 250th anniversary of Leesburg. In past years, the maize has celebrated the return of baseball to Washington, D.C., the centennial of flight and the return of Coach Joe Gibbs to the Washington Redskins. It is made entirely of real corn that grows in the ground and acts as a hedge, said Brian Bauer, marketing and communication director. The land was plowed in early summer and the corn was planted in June. A Utah company spent two days marking off the trails and spraying herbicide chemicals to control the growth of the corn. After the maize season is over, the corn is used as animal feed for the farm animals at Temple Hall Farm.

FOR PEOPLE living in the more traffic-congested parts of the county, the trip to Temple Hall Farm is a fun family outing — a reminder of days gone by. "I really think it's kind of like you can leave a congested area like Fairfax, and in a short amount of time, you can be at this actual real-life working farm," Bauer said. "And that's not something you're going to find within Fairfax proper."

The farm is operated by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and has 18 acres of pumpkins and gourds. Visitors can take hay rides, shoot the corn cannon, ride the cow train, bounce on the cow belly bounce or take a pony ride. There are Barnyard Fun Activities available Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They include goats, cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, a llama and 14 horses, ranging from Percheron and Shire draft horses, which pull wagon rides, plow the gardens and provide subjects for the interpretive programs.