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Purdue’s corn maze ‘Giant Leaps’ wins USA Today contest


Since we are well into September, the transition to fall is well on its way — harvest is among us, fall decor is being set up, and kids running through corn mazes. A corn maze near Lafayette that is designed to commemorate Purdue University’s “150 Years of Giant Leaps” has won USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards for best corn maze.

The maze at Exploration Acres, 6042 Newcastle Road, Lafayette, topped mazes around the nation in the contest. Voting took place over a four-week period that ended Aug. 26.

Covering more than 18 acres and featuring 494,000 stalks of corn, Exploration Acres is Northwest Indiana’s largest corn maze and pumpkin patch. Its design includes images of alumnus Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon; and Amelia Earhart, the first woman to attempt to circumnavigate the globe and an advisor for young women at Purdue in the 1930s.

corn maze
Image courtesy of Purdue University

The 2019 nominees were selected by USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice panel, and the winners were chosen by public online vote.

“We are excited to be recognized by USA Today as the best corn maze in America,” said Tim Fitzgerald, president and CEO of Exploration Acres. “This year’s maze is especially important to me because of our partnership with Purdue University. Exploration Acres is a small business owned by a family of Boilermakers. I met my wife as a student at Purdue. My dad, my sister and business partner and my son all have Purdue degrees as well.”

Exploration Acres will open Sept. 13 and will remain open until Oct. 27. Tickets are available online or may be purchased upon arrival. For more information about admissions, activities, and hours of operation, visit their website. Exploration Acres offers more than 20 activities that are family fun. Highlights include an 11-acre pick-your-own pumpkin patch, fire pit rentals, and hay rides. 

“We focused our (maze) design around Amelia Earhart and Neil Armstrong because they are two of the most recognizable figures in Purdue history,” Fitzgerald said. “They represent Purdue’s unmatched contributions to flight and aeronautics in the past. We also included symbols to show the areas where Purdue will make its mark in the future. The DNA strand, heart and leaf in the bottom left-hand corner represent biotechnology, health and sustainability. The brain and footprint in the bottom right represent artificial intelligence and space exploration.”

From noon to 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 20, a handful of Purdue’s colleges will be on hand providing interactive activities. Purdue Pete and the Boilermaker Special will make an appearance from 2-4 p.m. Anyone with a Purdue student, faculty, staff, or alumni ID or who wears Purdue gear will receive a discounted admissions rate.

Purdue University’s Giant Leaps sesquicentennial campaign is a series of events that connect world-renowned speakers and Purdue expertise in a conversation on the most critical problems facing the world. The 150th anniversary celebration of Purdue will conclude with an astronaut reunion at Homecoming on Oct. 12.

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