Kid’s Inc. in Camino has a corn maze for youngsters and it is just right if you’re 7 and brave. A half mile away, however, is a 2-acre plot with 8-foot-tall corn plants — a corn maze on steroids.
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Christine’s Colossal Corn Maze is the creation of Chris Delfino, 52, owner of Kids Inc. “I bought Kids from my dad, Edio, who was one of the founders of Apple Hill,” said Delfino. “He also had a piece of property for the cows and his vineyard and that’s where I put the corn maze.”
Entering the Colossal Corn Maze on a weekday when visitors to Apple Hill are few is probably a little different than on a busy weekend. In the silence, the power lines overhead buzz, adding a little frisson of other worldliness to the wall of corn surrounding you. Chem trails fill the sky and rustles, flutters and flapping from the blackbirds nesting in the plants add to the eerie feeling. On a weekend, you’d hear the laughter of the lost, pounding feet, calls of guidance and shrieks of fun from those in the maze with you, but the weekday is silent — mostly.
After a few dead-ends, one of which offers a resting place on strategically placed hay bales, you’ll probably find your way out. Probably. Delfino, who built the maze, got lost twice while demonstrating it.
“I am the worst,” he laughed.
The maze is new just this year. “I pulled out almost all the Christmas trees we had and planted 3 acres of pumpkins and gourds and the maze. Hardly anybody knows about it yet,” said Delfino. After practice with the small corn maze back at Kids Inc., Delfino said he built the Colossal Maze to fill in a gap between generations.
“At Kids, the pumpkin patch always belonged to the kids. We planted, watered, weeded and picked the pumpkins and we got the money for selling them,” said Delfino. He and his six brothers and sisters started the pumpkin patch tradition when they each became 9 and old enough to work it. “From 9 to until we graduated from high school, we worked in the pumpkin patch” said Delfino. “Then our children worked in it, too, from age 9-18.”
Christine, Delfino’s oldest daughter, the first grandchild to work in the pumpkin patch now manages a winery in Santa Barbara and the youngest grandchild, Hannah, is now a sophomore in high school and works in the Kids Inc. Pie Shop.
“I realized that all of the grandchildren were growing up and no one would be old enough to work the pumpkin patch for a while,” said Delfino, “so I decided to take over the pumpkin patch myself and build the corn maze.”
Delfino built it with a 100-pound bag of corn and a 100-year-old metal planter. “My son, on an ATV, dragged me behind him as I planted,” said Delfino. Instead of planting the corn in rows, he planted it in a crosshatch pattern. “I used to plant it in rows until my nephew, Caleb Melton, told me when he was only 12, that rows made it too easy,” said Delfino. “He was right.”
When the corn was 3 inches high, Delfino fertilized it so the corn would be productive. “After the maze is over, the corn will go to the cows — we don’t waste anything.” Then, when the corn was 1 1/2 or 2 feet tall, Christine Delfino mapped out the maze while her father toiled along behind her clearing the weeds along the proposed paths. “We also installed drip watering. Corn watered from above will fall over when it gets to be about 6 feet tall,” said Delfino.
El Dorado High School’s football team is well represented at the Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch. Derek Delfino sells the tickets and collects the money, Donovan Mayer collects the tickets at the entrance of the maze and Jacob Dwyer is the spotter in the ancient pear tree outside the maze who monitors the safety of the people inside it and uses the megaphone to caution people to stay on the path and not to pick the corn. Another El Dorado High student, Tommy Malone, roves the area between pumpkin patch and corn maze, guiding visitors and keeping them from picking Edio Delfino’s wine grapes.
Across from the maze is the 3-acre pumpkin patch where families can pick their own pumpkins for Halloween right off the vine.
“Right off the vine, they are filled with water and that means they will last a long time,” said Delfino.”I think we might have the biggest pumpkin patch on Apple Hill.”
Gourds and specialty pumpkins of all sizes also make their way to Kids Inc. for purchase.
The big launch for the pumpkin patch and Christine’s Colossal Corn Maze will be Oct. 5 and 6. “We had a practice run last weekend,” said Delfino, “and it was fun.”
The Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch is open through Nov. 10 and all holidays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Kids 3 and younger have free entrance to the maze, children 4-12 are $3 and those 13 and older are $5. It is located at 3250 North Canyon Rd. in Camino, about 1/2 mile from Kids Inc. Look for the red barn and the feed silo and prepare to be amazed.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.