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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008 08:10 pm

Autumn amusement

Abe’s Corn Maze and other corny festivals

A-MAZE-ing. The plan for putting Abe’s mug on a field of corn.
Matt Guth, the 2008 winner of the Morton Pumpkin Festival Pumpkin Weigh-Off, shows off his record-breaking 634-pound pumpkin from the back of his truck.

If you're looking to get into the maze craze this fall, we have great news — Springfield will host its very own 10-acre corn creation. If that's not enough, it's even cut into the shape of Abraham Lincoln's face to tie in the capital city's Bicentennial celebration.

Eric Hansen, pastor of the iWorshipCenter, came up with the idea last year after his church moved from a lot across from Memorial Medical Center to a 30-acre plot on Shaler Road. Since their actual building only sits on two acres he thought a corn maze would be a good use of the extra land and direct more traffic to the area. And he's thinking it'll work — he's heard that close to 30,000 people could check out the maze.

So why Abe?

"We could have put a cross and a dove, or the face of Jesus or something," Hansen says, "but that wouldn't have the appeal that Abraham Lincoln does. So why not play to the native son?"

Hansen stresses that this is a community event and hopes that other Springfield groups will get involved. There's more than just a maze, too — the church has been busy planning a whole range of "corny" events to present a full-fledged fall festival staged from noon to 6 p.m. every Saturday in October.

On Oct. 4, families will find pony rides, carnival games, an inflatable obstacle course/slide, a sumo suit tournament, and more at the Family Fun CORNival. Moms and pops can visit "Crafts and CORNvertibles," a craft and specialty car show on Oct. 11. This is also designated as Ethnic Day, which will feature multiple cultural performances. Chefs and meat-lovers alike will get a kick outta "Chili CORN Carne," a chili and BBQ cook-off on Oct. 18. The public picks its favorites and competes in hot-dog eating contests. An "AmeriCORN Idol" contest will close the festival on Oct. 25.

Kids play in the cow train, another “corny” feature in addition to the corn maze at the Fall Corn Festival in Godfrey.

Abe's Corn Maze opens the first weekend in October. Visit from 10 a.m.-dusk on Saturdays and 2 p.m.-dusk on Sundays. Admission costs $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-12. Organizers say it takes nearly an hour-and-a-half to navigate the entire maze, but there's a shortcut for those who want to finish sooner. For more information, go to www.abescornmaze.org or call 217-522-5632.

Other Illinois fun, family fall festivals include:

Morton Pumpkin Festival, Morton (Sept. 10-13)

Morton's known for it's pumpkin-chuckin,' but there's a heckuva lot more to the central Illinois town's 42nd annual Pumpkin Festival. Just 50 minutes from Springfield, the party caters to everyone — a soapbox derby, a big-wheel race, and a "Superhero Pumpkins" parade for the kids; disc golf, tennis tournaments, and foot races for local athletes; and cookery contests (with pumpkin as the main ingredient, of course) for the creative types — plus tons more. Oh, and come hungry, you don't want to miss out on pumpkin chili, pumpkin pancakes, or pumpkin fudge. For additional information, call 888-765-6588 or visit www.pumpkincapital.com.

Jacob plays in the child corn crib at the Fall Corn Festival in Godfrey.

Fall Corn Festival, Godfrey (Oct. 4)

When you're ready to get your mouth around a crunchy ear of corn, head west to Godfrey's Fall Corn Festival (near Alton). Eat it, shuck it, cook it, make dolls out of it, and even wander around in it in the "A-maze-ing Safari," a seven-acre corn maze cut into wild safari animal shapes. If you want to see corn-art at its finest, take a helicopter ride over the maze, or — if you'd rather stay on the ground — visit the festival's many craft and food vendors. Call 618-466-1483 for other festival information or visit www.greatgodreymaze.com for additional maze hours.

Didier Farms Pumpkinfest, Prairie View (Sept. 20-Oct. 31)

If you're up near Chicago and need a traditional autumn festival fix, stop by Didier Farms. At the annual Pumpkinfest, hop on a hayride and head out to the pumpkin patch. Sample fresh pumpkin and apple cider donuts at the Pumpkin Patch Café, and let your kids go wild in the petting zoo, corn maze, and mechanical rides and activities area. Don't forget to check out other such fall produce as winter squash, Indian corn, apples, and gourds at the Farmstand. For more information, visit www.didierfarms.com or
call 847-634-3291.

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