Home / Connected To The Land Ep. 13: Fritzler Farm Park & Corn Maze (Glen Fritzler)

Connected To The Land Ep. 13: Fritzler Farm Park & Corn Maze (Glen Fritzler)

Connected To The Land Ep 13: Fritzler Farm Park & Corn Maze (Glen Fritzler) In this episode of Connected To...

Connected To The Land Ep 13: Fritzler Farm Park & Corn Maze (Glen Fritzler)

In this episode of Connected To The Land with 4Rivers Equipment, host Fred Eichler talks with Glen Fritzler of the Fritzler Farm Park about his story of his family farm that he has now built into a Halloween amusement park with various activities like a haunted maze called Scream Acres, paintball, pumpkin cannons, and much more! Check out their website here for tickets and details: https://www.fritzlerfarmpark.com/

 

Fred Eichler: Well, I’m Fred Eichler and welcome to the 4Rivers podcast. We are your working partner and we mean it. I’m pretty excited because I’m sitting here with Glen Fritzler from Fritzler Farm Scream Acres, and he does a corn maze, him and his family. And I had a chance to talk to him. And you’ve got to hear this story, learn a little bit about a corn maze. But if you’re within about a three-state drive, you probably wanna come out here and check it out. Glen, thanks for sitting down with us today.

Glen Fritzler: You’re very welcome. My pleasure.

FE: Well, I appreciate it. So first off, ’cause I want people to look at this right now if you have a chance, what’s your website? Where do people go to check this out?

GF: Fritzlerfarmpark.com.

FE: Fritzlerfarmpark.com. And I’ll spell that. F-R-I-T-Z-L-E-R. Fritzlerfarmpark.com. So explain what a corn maze is to people that don’t know. Or, I guess, what yours is ’cause yours is pretty unique.

GF: Well, it’s a field of corn where we cut paths through and allow people to come in and navigate the corn maze and see if they can get lost and find the end. And when we first started, in 2000, we basically was a corn maze and a pumpkin patch. But each year we’ve added some activities and, truthfully, the part that I recommend, or that I enjoy the most, is all of our activities outside the corn maze now. You can come and spend all day and not even have to go into the cornfield. But if you like to go on in and challenge yourself, then by all means do the corn maze.

FE: What percentage of people can get out of the corn maze?

GF: Well, we get them all out.

FE: Oh well, I guess that’s so. [laughter] Well done. Alright. That’s fair.

GF: But we have what we call “corn cops.” And we hire these young men, and they go in the opposite direction. So they start in the exit, and if they see a group of people that look like they’re struggling, they’ll greet them and see if they want help. But if they don’t, they’ll go on and find the next group. But…

FE: Talk to me about all the different other activities ’cause I gotta go back to the corn maze ’cause I gotta figure out how you cut it and how you do all that. But I’m gonna jump around. Let’s talk about some of the other activities ’cause you guys have a lot going on over there.

GF: Yeah. Let’s see if I can remember them. There’s roughly 20 different things that you can do.

FE: Talk about a fun park.

GF: It is a fun park. And we put in a brand new… It’s called Hoop and Holler. It’s a competitive basketball thing, where there’s three hoops and it’s a minute timer and it’s competitive. It keeps score. So you and your buddies can go and go up and start challenging each other. And then we’ve got a church that’s got a vertiscope in it that gives you vertigo. And then there’s a ball zone where you can throw footballs, basketballs, and baseballs. And then we have pedal go-karts and pedal trikes. And then we have our paintball adventure, our pumpkin cannon…

FE: Wait. Wait. Wait. Pumpkin cannon.

GF: Yeah. We grow these special four-inch pumpkins, and then load them into these cannons and shoot at targets. And it’s addicting.

FE: What?

GF: And you can’t stop.

FE: Oh. That sounds awesome.

GF: It is. It’s probably my favorite thing to do.

FE: What are you powering the… What are you shooting it out?

GF: Compressed air.

FE: Compressed air.

GF: Yeah. We’ve got… You know the commercial compressors that you see on the…

FE: Yeah.

GF: Side of the road working on construction and stuff.

FE: How far can you shoot a pumpkin?

GF: Well, and we also have an eight-inch pumpkin…

FE: Oh my god.

GF: And that looks like… And that one will go about a quarter mile.

FE: What?

GF: And the small ones probably are about a…

FE: 440 yards?

GF: Yeah.

FE: Holy chowder.

GF: Yeah.

FE: That sounds like a blast. How accurate is it?

GF: Well, the pumpkins, because they’re not like a softball or a baseball…

FE: Right.

GF: And so they’ll curve on you. So you can aim at the exact same spot and never hit it.

FE: ‘Cause it’s gonna curve a little bit or do something crazy.

GF: Yeah.

FE: That sounds like a blast.

GF: Yeah. It’s a lot of fun.

FE: Literally. Ha ha.

GF: It is.

FE: [laughter] Okay. So pumpkin cannons, basketball hoops. You got…

GF: Giant slide that… And a pillow jump. That’s one of our popular things. It’s a piece of plastic tucked in the ground, and you fill air underneath it and it looks like a giant pillow. And then you can jump on it.

FE: That sounds awesome.

GF: And then we got a barrel train…

FE: Wait. Wait. Wait. What’s a barrel train?

GF: We took 55-gallon barrels, plastic barrels, and laid them on their side and cut a ring around them so the kids and adults can get in. And then there’s a seat. And we hook up 25 long and then we drive them over these little hills. And the kids put their hands up. They think they’re at Elitch’s. The screams and the laughs are endless.

FE: You’re basically just causing fun all over.

GF: [laughter] We’re trying to.

FE: And what else? What else do you have? What are some of the other ones that you…

GF: One of the world class… We have a huge… Believe it or not, we’ve gotten complaints about our pumpkin patch. And why and like how could you complain about this pumpkin patch. It’s just absolutely extraordinary. Well, some women like to go to pumpkin patches that they’re already cut and they’re in a pile. Well our pumpkin patches are true pumpkin patches. You have to go out…

FE: And pick your own pumpkin.

GF: And pick your own pumpkin. And we’ve got 15 acres of the most gorgeous pumpkins you’ve ever seen.

FE: That’s awesome. People can go out there and get their pumpkin for Halloween.

GF: Yeah. Yeah.

FE: Nice.

GF: Yeah.

FE: What else? This is sounding pretty cool.

GF: We’ve got cornhole and a washer game. Probably the only… Well, we’re originally the only place that sold alcohol, but we have two beer gardens now. The first one was so popular. We just started a second one this year. So we have two beer gardens.

FE: So I probably shouldn’t go to the beer garden before I attempt the corn maze.

GF: [laughter] Well, I don’t know. And photo opportunity, one of the… We set up a modellae for Christmas, and so people can come out and actually take their Christmas photos out at the corn maze and it’s warm, and we have this pumpkin building, it’s a nice sized cottage, but the walls are just 2x6s going horizontal, and then we place pumpkins on them, and so the whole walls, everything is just pumpkins.

FE: Pumpkin wall. A pumpkin house, almost.

GF: Yeah.

FE: That sounds neat.

GF: It’s really cool, it gets a lot of pictures taken. And then probably the most important thing or the most popular thing is our night time, we have Scream Acres, and that’s a haunted trail, and people come out from everywhere for that, and the reviews this year have been… It’s not the best that we’ve ever had, it’s not the best that they’ve ever been… Not the best corn maze they’ve ever had, but it’s the best haunted house, Denver, whatever that they’ve ever been to.

FE: No way.

GF: Yeah.

FE: Alright, so it’s good, you guys get serious about it, and I was blown away when I was talking to you about some of the… I mean, you were talking about helicopters and professional pilots and news crews, and tell me, if you don’t mind sharing it, some of the people that have come out and interviewed you, or some of the places that your maze or your fun park, where it’s been seen.

GF: Well, probably the most prominent one, it was the anniversary of 9/11, and we did a beautiful waving flag with a sprawling Bald Eagle, and we normally have our media day several days before we open, and we did this year, and it did end up on front pages of the Denver Post and the Greeley Tribune, and all across the front range, but I got a call on Sunday from an outfit called Getty, and they wanted permission to take a picture of it, and I said “For sure.” Well, I didn’t know who Getty was, but they sell photographs and they sold this photograph to The New York Times.

FE: No way.

GF: Yeah. And I didn’t know this and I had no idea. And I’m at the Farmer’s Market selling some sweet corn, and I get this phone call and it was the Today Show, and they said, “Hey, we’ve seen your photo in the New York Times this morning, and we’d like to send a crew out. And what do you say?” I said, “Come on out.” But this was the third year now, and we have realized how much enjoyment we were bringing to folks, and I just met a family, actually, Saturday, they had their little daughter there, and they both shared that they had been coming when they were like in college, and now they’re married and got children, and so it’s just very meaningful. It really makes you humble knowing what…

FE: What an impact, probably.

GF: Yeah, what an impact you’ve done. Yeah.

FE: Yeah, you touched people all over the place. How long have you guys been doing it now, and tell a little bit about the story about how you got involved. I guess first question is, how long have you guys been doing this? It started with the corn maze, right?

GF: It started with the corn maze and a pumpkin patch in year 2000. Just straight 2000.

FE: Okay, got it. So it started in 2000, so it’s been over 20 years now, you guys have been doing this.

GF: This is 22, yeah.

FE: So, then it graduated, I guess to all the other… You started to add different activities, is that how it kind of grew to what it is today?

GF: Yes, so what… To give you just a little background, we had to get a permit from the county, and part of that stipulation was that we’d have LaSalle fire department come out, which is a volunteer fire department. So they come out the first year and there was a lot of farmers on the department, and nobody knew what a corn maze was, including me, so there’s a lot of questions and a lot of people growing corn and pivots and walking through corn, and they said, “Why would anybody pay to walk through a corn field?” And I was kinda wondering that too, and we opened up and we had great success the first year. The media was very kind to us on the front page of the Rocky Mountain News, and Dan Drew from Denver, I think we had every TV station out that year.

FE: Wow. The first year?

GF: The first year. And so then the second year, the fire department comes out and farmers are kinda talking, “Well, one year, I can see people coming up, but why would anybody ever come out to a corn maze again?” And that stuck with me, I was like, “You know, that’s true. Why would they?” And so I committed at that very second that I would add something every year and give them a reason to come out.

FE: That’s why you have all the different activities.

GF: And that’s why we have all the different activities. We continue increasing and adding activities every year. And so people, after learning that, the first question they normally ask me is what’s the design? And then the second question is what’s new?

FE: I have so many questions. So let’s go back to when you first started. How did the corn maze come about? So you’re a farmer, obviously a good farmer, you were raising all kinds of stuff, you said onions and carrots and corn and pumpkins. How did the corn maze come about?

GF: Well, it came about out of need, out of necessity. I have a cousin that’s a large farmer in Wray, Colorado, Eastern Colorado, and he was visiting his sister in Arizona, and she asked him to go to corn maze with her, and he said, “Absolutely not, I walk through corn mazes or corn mazes all the time, I don’t wanna walk no corn maze.” Well, she won and they went to the corn maze and he had a ball.

FE: And this was in Arizona.

GF: This was in Arizona, like in 1998 or something like that.

FE: Is that the first one he’d ever seen?

GF: Yeah.

FE: Okay.

GF: And it was brand new, it was brand new to the Western United States. And he literally got landed at Denver and was on the phone with me and says, “Glen, you have to do this.” And I kind of blew him off the first year. And then we had a pretty bad year that year, and so I was calling him up and I said…

FE: Bad year farming?

GF: Yeah, bad year farming.

FE: Okay. Yeah. Yes, sir.

GF: And I said, “What was that idea you had about raising some money and corn mazes?” And he said, “Corn mazes.” And he says, “I’ve got the guy’s information somewhere and I’ll find it and send it to you.” And so I called the owner of the company, and he met with me the next day. And we hit it off and signed contracts, and we were up and running in 2000.

FE: Now, how many corn mazes are there in the country? Like do you have any idea? I don’t even know.

GF: Probably thousands.

FE: Really?

GF: There’s hundreds just in our group. So in the East Coast, if you looked at a map, you can go to…

FE: Is it like a franchise?

GF: Well, it’s… They help you. So instead of just throwing you out there and you trying to figure out everything, they have done three or four or five years of corn mazes. And they had figured out what works and doesn’t work, and how to talk to the media. So they sold you a little program, says, “Here, this will help you get started successfully.”

FE: Nice.

GF: And we have a conference every year. We go to a different location and tour. Get on… There’s probably eight Greyhound buses full from the corn maze conference that goes to these different farmers and tours and gets new ideas.

FE: So, but it started out as a way to supplement income for the farm.

GF: Correct.

FE: Right?

GF: Yes.

FE: So then it kinda went crazy. Now, for people listening, and for me ’cause I’m curious, could you give me a rough estimate how many people you took through that first year? Just a rough estimate how many people go through it now?

GF: Yeah. We were very, very fortunate. The first year we did almost… We did over 20,000 people our very first year.

FE: Oh my gosh. 20,000 people went through the corn maze. And now, like just a rough guess. Is it…

GF: Something around 50.

FE: God! And it’s open from when to when? ‘Cause you gotta have corn. [laughter]

GF: Yeah. Gotta have corn. So we are open usually two weekends in October… In September.

FE: Yes, sir.

GF: And then through Halloween. So we’re generally open seven…

FE: So in two months you’re taking almost 40,000 people through there.

GF: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

FE: Holy smokes. That’s incredible. That sounds so much fun.

GF: It is a lot of fun. It’s a lot of work, a tremendous amount of work, but the rewards are worth it.

FE: So how do you cut… Like when I’m on a tractor, how do you cut a corn maze? I mean how do you? And you were talking about different designs. How the heck do you do that?

GF: The first thing people think that we’re using GPS. There’s no electronics involved whatsoever.

FE: You’re kidding me. I automatically assumed you guys were using GPS systems on the John Deeres and rolling them through that way.

GF: No. So we plant… Some of this is a little bit… We’ve signed some non-disclosure agreements…

FE: Oh, okay. Sorry.

GF: But I can tell you some of it. But we cross-plant. So we plant in a grid.

FE: Oh, so you plant intentionally. So when you plant the corn, it’s with the idea that it’s gonna be a corn maze ahead of time.

GF: Oh yeah. Absolutely.

FE: Oh. So it starts with the planting.

GF: And it’s an opposite of a painter. A painter starts with a blank screen and adds paint and makes his… We start with a full screen, and we eliminate corn to make the design.

FE: Good analogy. That’s awesome. So, holy smokes. Now, how… That’s still… Okay. It’s fascinating. I’m gonna have to learn about corn mazes. And I wanna come out. I’m gonna bring my family and go check this out ’cause this sounds pretty incredible. And Jessie, who’s helping me run the podcast, is nodding her head, so I think we’re gonna be… There’s gonna be a big group there. So what’s fun to me is, when we were talking before the podcast started, your son’s involved too, right? How many of your family members work in the business?

GF: Well, I started with my wife, Pam, and then my son, Trevor and his wife, Bree, and then my stepson, JD and his girlfriend, Shelby, and then we’ve got our daughter, Alicia. And my daughter, Amanda has done some in the past, but she’s in Denver now and doesn’t do as much. My sister has in the past. Mom and Dad were very involved. Probably their greatest pleasure was coming out and just watching the folks while they were still alive, and…

FE: Watching people have fun.

GF: Just watching the people have fun. Yeah, it was awesome.

FE: That’s pretty incredible. So you grow it to be a corn maze. You’ve added a whole bunch of different things. That’s a pretty… It’s incredible to me. Now do you do more than just Halloween? I mean do you do it any other time of the year, like all those events, do you keep those going at all or no?

GF: We found people… We could give the tickets away for free and people still won’t come out in September.

FE: Oh, okay.

GF: This is strictly an October event.

FE: Okay.

GF: And we’ve tried to go into November, and sometimes we’ll have those beautiful November days, nobody.

FE: Interesting. So it’s a very seasonal thing.

GF: It’s a seasonal October. You know? And we can’t quite explain it, but… So we’ve stopped trying, and we realized…

FE: This is our season and you stick with that.

GF: This is our season and then we stick with it. You know, we could go into Christmas trees or something like that. But by the end of the season we’re like, “That was enough.”

FE: To me, it’s an entrepreneur success story, though. And that really from a bad… Couple of bad years farming to coming up with a way to keep the farm. You know what I mean? And not lose it.

GF: Exactly.

FE: What do you guys do with the farm the rest of the year then? So you’ve got a farm. You’re only really operating it, as far as the Scream Acres goes, for a month. What do you guys do with the farm the rest of the year?

GF: Well, the pumpkins and the corn maze, I mean they take… They’re planted normal time. So we’re farming the pumpkins and the corn maze all year. But I’ve rented, or leased, the majority of the farm out to a local farmer.

FE: Okay. So the farm’s still getting… It’s still getting work.

GF: Yes.

FE: The ground’s still getting work. People are still putting it in there.

GF: Yeah.

FE: Now…

GF: And we harvest the corn after the corn mazes.

FE: Oh, for silage and stuff like that.

GF: For grain.

FE: What do you guys… Oh, okay.

GF: Yeah.

FE: Great. What do you guys… When do you start putting it together?

GF: It’s a 12-month process. So…

FE: For the event, right?

GF: Right now, we’re actually thinking about next year already.

FE: And you’re still…

GF: While we’re still in it, trying to figure out things. And so it’s… We plant a little bit later than the normal, but we’re constantly doing something maze-related, trying to get new ideas, figuring out what we’re gonna do, and just make it the best experience possible.

FE: Now, tell me your website again, and are there pictures of the different maze designs on there?

GF: At Fritzlerfarmpark, there are some of my favorite pictures. There’s not all of them on there, but there are a few.

FE: Nice. How do you come up with the designs?

GF: The first few years, I just, like, what’s popular in Colorado? So if I had asked you that question, what would you say?

FE: Heck, I don’t know.

GF: What’s the most popular thing in Colorado? If people are…

FE: Skiing. I don’t know. Hunting.

GF: Well, close. Denver Broncos.

FE: Oh, Denver Broncos. I got you. Okay.

GF: And so we did the Denver Bronco logo here the first year.

FE: Oh, I’m looking at a picture right now on your page. How do you get it that detailed? So this is why you need to check out the website. I’m looking at the Denver Bronco logo. I’m looking at a military emblem. Look at that. Thanks for your sacrifice, Fritzler Farm thanks you for your sacrifice… This is unreal.

GF: And this year, we’re doing a tribute to Tunnel to Towers…

FE: There’s a picture of your mom and dad.

GF: That’s my favorite one. That one will get me choked up. [chuckle]

FE: The detail… So here’s an example, this is why you gotta look at the website. I can see what his mom and his dad look like. I can see them wearing glasses, the different style glasses. And that’s all in corn. And you can clearly read the words. The military logo is incredible. There’s the one with an eagle, says, “God bless America.” I had no idea you could do that with corn.

GF: And we kinda revolutionized that. I think most getting into it back in 2000, a lot of folks were just doing crop circles and different types of things that didn’t really look like a picture. But, I don’t know, for some reason when I did it, I decided to do that Bronco logo, and we got such incredible response from that, from the media, that we just kept trying to come up with things. And you had asked where we get ideas, we just see what’s… Like last year, we were gonna do the Tunnel To Tower, and it was only a 19-year anniversary, but then with COVID, we thought, “Let’s do something COVID-related,” and so we took a world and then we did some… The hands and kind of made… And I think that’s the one that says, “Thanks for your sacrifice.”

FE: That’s beautiful. That’s the one I’m looking at right now, with the hands holding the world.

GF: And the “Thanks for sacrifice,” went out to everybody. There’s people that say, “Hey, you know the nurses and what they did, and the doctors and all this, but what about the grocery store that… And the people that got laid off? They sacrificed. And the businesses that got closed.” And so I think that it wasn’t inclusive, it was everybody had some sort of sacrifice, and we’re still sacrificing.

FE: That’s very true. That’s incredible, though. If you look at these pictures on the website, it will blow you away, because the detail… I know you said there are some stuff you can’t tell me, but that’s incredible. If you look at it, you’ll see exactly what I mean. Now, how many acres is the corn maze? Is this a one-acre corn maze, a five-acre… Looking at these pictures, it looks huge.

GF: They’re about 15.

FE: 15 acres of corn maze. Can you let us know what you’re thinking about for next year?

GF: I haven’t, I haven’t, I don’t…

FE: You don’t have the design yet?

GF: No ideas yet. And I wondered that… We’re doing Tunnel To Tower, and next week we’re doing Hometown Heroes, and a large percentage or a portion of the proceeds are gonna go to the Tunnel To Tower Foundation. Are you familiar with that?

FE: So you guys are donating back?

GF: Yeah. So Tunnel To Tower was started in 2000. This gentleman’s brother went up into the towers. He was a firefighter for New York, and he passed, and his brother then started this foundation called Tunnel To Tower. The brother that passed away, his name was Stephen Siller, and I think he was off-duty that day, and when he found out about that, he went to his fire station and they had already left, so he put on all his gear, and I guess there’s a tunnel from the fire station to the towers, and he ran five miles full gear. And he got to the towers and he went up to help people and got caught up in it and didn’t come out.

FE: Wow.

GF: And so his brother, Frank, started this foundation. And I hear him on the radio station that I listen to. So when the police officer got killed in… What was it, South Denver, Colorado Springs… At that King Soopers shooting?

FE: Oh, okay, I remember seeing or hearing about that on the news.

GF: Tunnels To Tower came in and paid off the mortgage for that widow.

FE: Wow.

GF: And they do incredible things for… If the person comes home from war and he’s disabled, they put him in a smart home, give it to him, and the smart home’s got all these tables that go up and down, and ramps, and it’s just incredible.

FE: And you’re giving a percentage to them?

GF: Yeah.

FE: Wow, so you’re doing a bunch of good stuff with it as well, besides entertaining people. If you were to break it down and tell me what’s your favorite thing about doing it?

GF: Probably, I’d have to do two. So when we have a barrel train, and a lot of our competitors and folks that have corn mazes, they just… They have a lawnmower hooked onto a train, and they drive in circles. And we got thinking, “You know, we wanna do something that’s got a little bit more wow factor,” and so we put hills in our trails, and the kids scream and yell, “Faster! Faster!” And it’s like their first rollercoaster ride for many of them. And then the second one is in Scream Acres, when you scare somebody and a grown man drops to his knees begging you to quit, or, “Sir, Take my girlfriend! Take her!” And he takes off running. So those are two of my favorite things.

FE: I love that it’s about the people for you though.

GF: It is about the people, absolutely. And thinking about it, for… I farmed for 20 years before we did this, and you’re out on the tractor now and…

FE: By yourself.

GF: By yourself, and you don’t really… I listen to radio or whatever, but this allows you to interact with people and do things like this today, and it was something I didn’t know was inside me, but I love it. I absolutely love it.

FE: You found your calling.

GF: Yeah.

FE: Glen, I am tickled you came to talk with us. Looking at the pictures blows me away. I cannot wait. I’m gonna bring everybody. I have to go check it out because it sounds like a pretty incredible experience but thank you so much for sitting down and being honest, and you know what I mean, and talking about why you did it, and some poor farming years, and had to come up with something to save the farm. And now what’s great is you get to work with your whole family.

GF: Yeah, it’s a blessing. It really is.

FE: Thanks for coming in and talk to us, Glen, I appreciate it.

GF: Alright. Thank you.