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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Field of scenes

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Donnie Beggs stands in his 12-acre cornfield where the path is being etched for this year's Lewis and Clark expedition maze.
BLODGETT -- At the height of watermelon season, Donnie Beggs is busy tackling another project that has become an annual event for the melon farmer and his family.

Last week, Beggs, along with his employees, began etching the path of Beggs' 12-acre corn maze, which will ultimately transform into a "recreation" of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

"We chose to do Lewis and Clark because of the 200th anniversary," said Beggs, who owns the farm with his wife, Sheila. "They were on the Mississippi River and stopped right here in Southeast Missouri. The maze teaches about their exploration."

Prior to entering the maze, which is located off Highway U in Scott County, visitors will receive a game sheet with the explorers' storyline. As they play the game, questers will follow the helpful suggestions provided, answer questions and create their own map to navigate the twists and turns of the maze.

"You wouldn't believe all of the questions they've come up with for the Lewis and Clark quiz," Beggs said. "They have some great material and the kids -- and adults -- can learn a lot from the maze."

And it's not just Missourians who are interested in learning about Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's expedition, either.

"I had a woman from Kentucky call me about our Lewis and Clark maze. She was so excited about it," Beggs recalled.

For the third year in a row, the Beggs family has created their corn maze through the Pennsylvania-based company called Maize Quest. Each of the mazes is designed through computers. All Beggs has to do is tell a designer his idea and they draw the maze out for him.

Beggs Pumpkin Patch officially opens its maze to the public from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays beginning Sept. 27 through Nov. 2. School visits will be Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 1-31.

"This is the first year we're going to be open after Halloween," Beggs said. "Last year a lot of people weren't able to come because we had so much rain. It rained 11 days during the month of October so we want to give everyone a chance to come out."

Each year, Beggs said he and his family try to make the maze bigger and better. One of things people don't realize is how long it takes to conquer the maze, he added.

"A lot of people don't give themselves enough time," Beggs said. "It takes a good half a day to go to the pumpkin field, watch the puppet show, see the animals and of course conquer the mazes."

In addition to the corn maze, a new mind boggling maze was added this year for those who love a good challenge, Beggs said. A finger painting maze for children was also added. "With the finger painting maze, kids paint a finger at each of five clues. When they reach the end of the maze, they match their hand with the code that fits the color pattern on their hand and receive a fortune. There are 120 different codes for fortunes," Beggs explained.

This year there's a lot more to see and do, Beggs said. Plus, it's a great time to relax and have fun, he added.

New to the farm area is an enclosed sliding board that is 15-feet tall and 40-feet long. Activities returning this year include a straw bale maze, rope maze, hayrides, milking cow, pick your own pumpkins, kid conveyor slides, hay jump, farm animal displays, farm train and the puppet show. The gift shop and concessions will also be available.

Although it's still too early to tell what the corn will look like in the fall, right now, it's not looking too bad, Beggs said.

"The corn is off to a good start," Beggs said. "This is the best corn crop I've had since I've been doing this -- but we're still learning. Not too many farmers plant corn during the first week of July."

The corn is planted in July in hopes of retaining its green color when autumn arrives. While Beggs admitted the maze isn't as complicated this year as it has been in the past, he did say with a little help from Mother Nature that could all change.

"I'm hoping the corn will keep growing to where the stalks get to be really tall and thick because then it will really make the maze a challenge," Beggs said. "Then it will be like a wall. You won't be able to see through the stalks." Beggs Pumpkin Patch is currently taking reservations from schools. For more information, visit www.beggspumpkinpatch.com or call (573) 471-3879.