MIDDLEFIELD — Wake up and smell the sunflowers at Lyman Orchards Sunflower Maze, open daily through Aug. 27.
“We were super excited for guests to check out our sunflower maze this year,” said John Lyman, executive vice president of Lyman Orchards. “In addition to how beautiful the field is, within the maze, guests can enjoy the flowers and see butterflies and American goldfinches. There are bees but they go to the flowers and they don’t bother you. The flowers are sterile.”
Visitors are greeted by smiling employees at a cute little red barn-like stand. At that spot, they can purchase tickets and pick up an official sunflower maze map to help guide them through the twists and turns along the pathways and a maze passport featuring 10 trivia questions related to the theme, which is Clifford the Big Red Dog. Or visitors can choose from a selection of passports featuring different categories.
“Inside the maze, we have 10 posts. It's multiple choice related to Clifford, sports, entertainment, etc.” Lyman said. “It creates that interactive experience.”
Answering each question correctly will help you choose the right direction at each crossroad station within the maze.
“We also have signs that talk about Clifford and the series so if you don’t know much about him, you’ll learn about his story and the show, and if you are a fan of the show, you’ll find it real fun,” Lyman said. “There are some points that may be a little difficult, but people have been finding their way through.”
Visitors must make their way through 2.5 miles of winding pathways surrounded by 350,000 blooming yellow, red, and orange sunflowers.
“The maze takes guests about 20-30 minutes to go through. Depending if you read all the signs, it may take a little longer,” Lyman said.
They can also climb atop of the 10-foot viewing platform for the ultimate view and group photos. Or take a photo at the sunflower booth prop by the entrance.
“We also have cut your own,” Lyman said. “We have another field right across the way so people can cut their own sunflowers.”
In late May, Lyman Orchards prepared the field and began the planting process. And typically in early July, the planting and cutting is done.
“We work with a company out of Utah, known as The Maize, they designed the maze for us and did the cutting,” Lyman said. “They have several mazes throughout the country and do an excellent job. We have a video of drone footage. It's amazing how accurate the design is to what we have on paper.”
About two weeks before the grand opening, Lyman Orchards went through and leveled out the paths, and put up the netting to keep people from walking into the flowers.
“It was actually a pretty good growing year for sunflowers. You can see how beautiful they are,” he added. “Some years they’re slow to open and there weren’t as many and then within a week or two, they are really flushed. But this year when we opened, they were pretty flushed from the beginning and they’re holding up well.”
The 2023 Lyman Orchards Sunflower Maze officially opened on July 29.
“We had a good crowd on opening day,” Lyman said. “And it has been pretty steady.”
Parents like Ajya Brooks brought her family for a little Sunday fun day. And Nancy Maier brought her granddaughters for a fun-filled day as well.
“We had a great day there,” Maier said. “We had lunch, enjoyed the beautiful maze, and had ice cream. We even made friends with another grandma and granddaughter from Sturbridge during our visit.”
Since the sunflower maze tends to draw in a lot of kids, according to Lyman, they try to choose themes to appeal to them.
“Every year we look at different ideas and we’ve also been working with CPTV. They have a number of kids’ shows so we try to tie into that,” he added. “Last year was Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. A couple years ago was Sesame Street; it was their 50th Anniversary. And for a couple years we actually asked the kids at the Connecticut Children’s Hospital to come up with ideas, so one year we did a roller coaster and another a pirate ship.”
The sunflower maze was started in 2007 primarily as an activity, but Lyman Orchards had been working with Connecticut Children’s to help raise money.
“On the corn maze we’ve been doing since 2000, we’ve been donating $1 from every ticket sold to the American Cancer Society, so we wanted to do a similar thing for the Children’s Hospital,” Lyman said. “So from every ticket sold at the sunflower maze we’ve been donating $1 to Connecticut Children’s Hospital.”
Lyman Orchards has raised close to $180,000 since 2007. After this year’s event, they will be close to going over $200,000, according to Lyman.
“The Connecticut Children’s Hospital does great work and it’s been a great partnership,” Lyman said. “They have ambassadors and they have what is called the all-stars, and one or two kids come for the grand opening. Last weekend, we had Connecticut Children’s Hospital Weekend, so if they bought a ticket, the workers and families got a free ice cream cone.”
The 2023 Lyman Orchards Sunflower Maze is open daily from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The last entrance to the maze is at 4:30 p.m.
Admission is $11 for adults, $6 for ages 4-12, and free for children under 3 years.