WATERLOO — Residents in northeast Indiana don’t have to go far to see Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. He’s been in Waterloo since July and won’t leave until October.
Larry Smith, a fourth-generation farmer, turned his corn maze into a 12-acre likeness of the quarterback.
Three years ago, Smith and his family transformed a portion of their 450-acre farm into a fall festival area. For six weeks between September and October, the Smith family of Waterloo goes “all hands on deck” to run Amazing Fall Fun.
The fall recreation area opens for the season Saturday.
The idea came for the maze came from his sister after she visited a maze near Chicago.
“She said, ‘This might be something you could do,’ ” Smith said.
Smith is excited to provide something that draws so many people into DeKalb County. He estimates that nearly 10,000-12,000 will visit this year’s maze. “I get to meet people from all over,” Smith said.
He recalls a British couple who were driving on U.S. 6, noticed a sign and stopped in because they were curious.
“We want families to have good wholesome fun,” Smith said. “You can spend 2-3 hours in (the maze).”
Smith said weather is a big factor in his business, mostly with rain. Last year’s corn was only shoulder-high. This year’s yield is more than 10 feet tall.
To cut the maze, Smith works with a company in Utah that designs corn mazes for nearly 350 farms in the United States.
The first maze was in the shape of a Duesenberg, a nod to DeKalb County’s automotive heritage.
Smith and a crew of four from the company completed this year’s maze in July, when the corn was 6 inches tall. To make the cuts, the crew measured out the design in a grid.
“We didn’t use a GPS,” Smith said. It took them a full day from sunrise to sunset to finish.
Running the corn maze is “two months of a lot of busyness” Smith said.
“It gets pretty crazy around here, ” he said, adding, “It’s a family venture — everyone helps.”
Smith knew an acquaintance in Colorado who did a Peyton Manning corn maze after the quarterback was traded to the Denver Broncos.
“He told me, ‘Thanks for sending him our way,’ ” Smith said, giving him the idea to do a Luck version.
“If he can do a maze with Peyton Manning,” Smith said. “We can do one with Luck.”
He made sure to get permission from the Colts and wanted to make sure it was OK with Luck. Smith has even invited Luck to come out and see the maze. No word yet if the quarterback will visit the farm.
Smith does get the occasional grief from Bears and Steelers fans.
“They say, ‘Hey! What’s with the Colts?’ ” Smith said.
While many in his family pitch in to help, Smith also hires additional help.
“We have corn cops,” Smith said. “They make sure everything is OK.”
Once the season ends at Amazing Fall Fun, Smith harvests the corn in late October. The rest of the year, Smith grows corn and beans, and raises grass-fed beef.
He cross plants the corn, to make a denser maze. The field is not his top yield, but he said it “creates a better maze.”