Fender's Farms Cornfield Maze. Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press
From family fun to a frightening good time, Fender’s Farm has plenty of activities –– 45 to be exact –– to keep all members of the family entertained.
Carroll Fender and his wife, Bonnie, started the corn maze at their farm, located at 254 Tenn. Highway 107 in Jonesborough, back in 2000 after they made contact with some people in Knoxville who were operating their own maze.
“We were the laughingstock of the community when we did that,” Fender said. “We just worked at it until we felt like we were somewhat successful. Curiosity brought people out at first.”
In just 13 years of operation, Fender and his family, as well as numerous volunteers, have turned the farm into a fall-inspired adventure land. “Some people claim and brag on having the biggest cornfield maze around, but we have about 2-and-a-half miles of cut in ours and we’ve never had anyone to come out and complain about (how) it wasn’t long enough,” he said.
“We feel like we’re right on target as far as size is concerned and we concentrate on all of those other things that people like to come here and do.”
For those looking for a fright, The Insane Inn, the establishment’s version of an old haunted house, is one place to start, as well as the Buried Alive activity, where Fender said they use various animatronics, which are devices that are motion activated and are meant to seem lifelike in form.
The next haunted activity is the Field of Screams. “The Field of Screams is just a lot of ... things coming at you. We try to not have them at integral times,” he said. “We try to space it out where you might get a boo and then you’ll walk 100 feet before you get another one. We try to just kind of surprise you. People love the field more because they feel like they can get away if something scares them.”
The last fright for the adventure seekers at Fender’s is the Maniac Maze, which consists of a chain-link fence maze with high-powered strobe lights, where participants must figure out how to get out.
He said the haunted activities are intended to attract a few screams and boos, but said they’ve learned over the years that they couldn’t please everyone who came to visit the farm.
But that doesn’t stop them from trying.
“Some people come already scared. You don’t have to do much,” Fender said. “Some people come and they say they can’t be scared. Some people think it’s the greatest things in the world.”
One of the new activities at Fender’s this year is Redneck Zombie Paintball.
“You’re sitting on a wagon with a paintball gun mounted on the side of the trailer and as we drive around the farm, you’re taking potshots at the zombies,” he said.
He said during the day on Friday-Sunday, they use animatronic zombies, but said Friday and Saturday night’s participants are shooting at “real” zombies.
Some other activities while waiting or taking a break from a main activity are pedal carts, a zipline, a cow train, the three little pig houses, the Cornfield County Sports Complex, a corn sandbox, horse shoes and an animal barn.
For an additional charge, visitors can try their hand at bull riding, decorating a pumpkin at Hannah’s Highlights, and shooting at pumpkins through a cannon.
And if you haven’t stocked up on your fall decorations or found the perfect pumpkin this year, Fender’s has all of that in their retail store for purchase after finishing up with activities.
“We just want to get a little bigger and a little better each year until we run totally out of property,” Fender said. “I like to just walk around and see smiles on people’s faces. You can spend three of four hours here. With everything else that we have here, it just makes for the total experience, one destination to get ready for your fall activities and decorations.”
Admission to the Cornfield Maze and activities is $11.95 plus tax for ages 12 and up, $9.95 plus tax for ages 4-11 and kids 3 and under are free with a paying adult. For adults at least 62 years old admission is $8.95 plus tax. Admission includes the 45 activities around the grounds.
The four haunted activities can be purchased for $10 for one, $15 for two and if a visitor buys three activities for $20, the fourth activity is thrown in for free.
A concession stand is operated at Fender’s Farm Friday, Saturday and Sunday and serves hot dogs, corn dogs, apple fritters, ribbon fries, funnel cakes, drinks and slush puppies.
Fender’s Farm is open to the public Monday-Thursday from 4-9 p.m., Friday from 4-10 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-10 p.m. and on Sunday from 1-6 p.m. Haunted activities are open on Friday and Saturday from dark until 10 p.m. The closing date for fall and fright festivities at Fender’s will be Nov. 3 at 6 p.m.
For more information, call 753-4469 or visit www.fendersmaze.com.