Mike’s Maze A-maze-s Again: Popular Sunderland Attraction Opens for Season

The Recorder, September 3, 2016, by Shelby Ashline

Four-year-old Nathan Bijur stood surrounded by tall, thin corn stalks that towered up into the bright blue sky. Rounding a row of corn, he was amazed to discover a mountain lion poised in his path.

As part of its national park theme this year, Mike’s Maze corn maze is filled with 13 black life-sized cutouts of wild animals. Adults and children were invited to explore the maze and keep track of which animals they saw during the maze’s opening day Saturday.

“It’s really nice,” said Bijur’s grandfather, Morri Markowitz, 67, of Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. “The kids can learn and even for adults, being able to distinguish based on silhouettes was a challenge.”

Markowitz and his wife, Polly Bijur, 66, brought Nathan to Mike’s Maze not only for his first maze experience, but to enjoy the petting zoo and jumping pad. Mike’s Maze offers a variety of children’s activities such as rubber duck races and peddle carts. Adults could also have fun shooting at tin targets with a potato launcher.

Markowitz said the maze provided an educational opportunity, allowing children to “figure out a sense of direction and strategies for getting from point A to point B.”

In addition to the wildlife sighting game, Mike’s Maze offered a ranger training trivia game. The game is intended to be the qualifying exam to become a park ranger at “Mike’s Maze National Park,” and features fun trivia questions related to national parks.

“Beyond just cutting the design in the corn, we really try to center everything around that theme,” said Jess Wissemann, who designed the maze. Her husband, Dave Wissemann, developed the trivia questions.

“We might have made it too hard,” Wissemann commented on the trivia challenges, adding that not many participants received a score of 60 or above to become a park ranger. “We try to make sure there’s something simple and also something to challenge.”

Some participants thought the questions were just challenging enough.

“There were some that were fun to do and some that were definitely challenging,” said Sara Wunderle, 41, of Rockingham, Vt.

Wunderle traveled to Sunderland to try the maze along with her husband Troy, 43, and her daughters Ariana, 12, and Emily, 15. Wunderle’s parents Kandace Bisbee, 64, and Spaulding “Bis” Bisbee, 68, of Westminster, Vt., also attended.

“The key is, it’s educational,” Spaulding Bisbee said. “You find out if you make a mistake.”

The Wunderle and Bisbee families received a final score of 87 percent, certifying them all as park rangers for “Mike’s Maze National Park.”

“I’ve gone to a lot of national parks so it was fun to test my knowledge for the trivia,” Troy Wunderle said.

Outside of the sprawling, 8-acre corn maze was also a 30-foot geyser set up for the occasion, which Mike’s Maze staff call “Old Reliable.” Every hour on the hour, the geyser would spew steam into the air, acting as a miniature replica of Old Faithful.

Guests to the corn field could look out over the maze from above via a coin-operated binocular viewer. Jess Wissemann said all coins collected will be donated to the National Parks Foundation, the official charity of the National Park Service.

Wissemann said the maze’s opening day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. attracted a great crowd that provided staff with feedback on how to fine-tune the trivia questions heading into the maze’s 17th season.

Mike’s Maze, 23 South Main St., will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays through Nov. 6.

Haunted Maze

Starting Sept. 23, Mike’s Maze will become a haunted maze, called Mike’s at Night. Mike’s at Night will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 7 to 11 p.m. through Oct. 31.