Fantozzi Farms Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch
WHERE: 2665 Sperry Ave., just east of the Delta-Mendota Canal
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays until Nov. 4; school field trips can be scheduled on weekdays
COST: Corn maze and courtyard, $9 adults, $7 children ages 5 to 12; courtyard, regular corn maze and haunted maze, $12 adults, $10 children; courtyard only, $5 per person; children age 4 and younger enter free with a paying adult. Cow train ride, $3; corn cannons, $3 for five shots or $5 for 10 shots.
INFO: 892-2015 or www.fantozzifarms.com
The year 2012, when the calendar of the ancient Mayans anticipates the beginning of a new era Dec. 21, is also meaningful for Patterson’s Fantozzi family, which is marking 10 years of running its annual corn maze.
The family is celebrating both themes this year. The two corn mazes at 2665 Sperry Ave. are shaped like the Mayan calendar sitting atop an ancient Meso-American pyramid, with a combined 6.1 miles of trails.
“This year, somebody mentioned that it’s the end of the world, and I said, ‘We’ve got to do it,’” said Paul Fantozzi, with a chuckle, of the maze design.
Paul Fantozzi runs the attraction with his wife, Denise. As in years past, Idaho-based MazePlay created the maze with a tractor and a GPS system after the Fantozzis explained their concept.
The Fantozzi family’s attraction started in 2003 with a corn maze shaped like a witch on a broom, a small maze of hay bales, a hay bale pyramid and boxes of corn seed where children can play.
Through the years, the Fantozzis have added activities, including a popular nighttime “haunted maze” filled with scary characters on weekends, pig races and corn cannons that can launch ears of corn dozens of feet toward targets, allowing shooters the opportunity to win a free pumpkin.
Paul Fantozzi estimates that 5,000 to 10,000 people visit the maze on any given year.
The Fantozzis have more pumpkins for sale at the site than ever before, now that the family is growing the gourds across the street from the attraction. They are also continuing their educational presentation and video for field trip participants about creating corn mazes and growing corn and pumpkins.
This year’s event also includes its cow train ride for $3 and a narrated hay ride. The Fantozzi Farms mascot, Mr. Corn, will make regular appearances.
Organizers hope to have live music available on weekends, too, including Patterson-based classic rock band The Jungle Rooster among other groups. Both singer-songwriter Rachel Renae and indie pop artist Uni and her Ukelele played at last year’s corn maze, Denise Fantozzi said.
“It has been evolving from what we started with,” she said this week.
Debbie Byram, who has been a cashier for the attraction since 2004, said the corn maze was attracting decent crowds on weekends, and organizers expect even more attendees as Halloween gets closer.
In addition to West Side residents, people stop by the maze while traveling to Los Angeles on Interstate 5, organizers said. The Fantozzis are also seeing more folks from Turlock and Modesto this year after hosting a booth at the Stanislaus County Fair, Denise Fantozzi said.
The haunted maze on Friday and Saturday nights continues to be a popular draw, Byram said.
“I can hear the screams all the way down here,” she said with a smile earlier this week, standing dozens of yards from the maze.
The larger mazes follow the pattern of the circular Mayan calendar, sending maze visitors all over as they search for 12 checkpoints in the labyrinth.
The end of the present era will end and a new one will begin Dec. 21, according to the ancient Mayan calendar. That’s prompted some folks to make end-of-the-world predictions, though people of Mayan descent have said doomsday prophecies are a misinterpretation of the calendar.
The Fantozzis decided to have fun with the idea, leading to their most complex mazes yet.
“It makes it a real challenge, but it’s not impossible,” Denise Fantozzi said.
She said several people found all the checkpoints during the past weekend.
The mazes also include the Farm Scene Investigation game once again, similar to the board game “Clue,” in which visitors seek out clues hidden in the maze to learn which animal abducted Farmer Joe.
A bridge in the middle of the maze provides a view of the surrounding cornfield, similar to last year’s.
A few women from Patterson’s Mothers of Preschoolers group said Tuesday, Oct. 9, that they were impressed with the attraction.
Oakland resident Verise Green, who visited with her sister Vurnette Taylor of Patterson and their children, said Fantozzi Farms had better activities than the pumpkin patches she had seen in the Bay Area.
“The other ones at home, they just have pumpkins and jumpers,” she said.
M.O.P.S. member Nina Gregoris said her family visits every year. While her older children enjoy the haunted maze, her 2-year-old son, Louis, was having a good time riding a tractor, perusing the corn maze and climbing atop the hay bale pyramid Tuesday.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Gregoris said. “They’ve set it up very nicely.”
The Fantozzis hope to expand the annual fall extravaganza, but they are unsure if they will be able to keep the land. Sacramento developer Buzz Oates Enterprises plans to build the 77-acre Patterson Logistics Center business park on some of the property used by the corn maze and on the adjacent former Patterson Airport.
Denise Fantozzi dreams of adding a food court, a giant pipe slide and a mechanical bull and possibly bringing back pony rides, which the family has offered in some past years.
“We’ll be there as long as we can,” Denise Fantozzi said. “We love doing it.”
•Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187 or firstname.lastname@example.org.