SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — When the staff at Clark Farms in Matunuck was deciding on this year’s theme for its annual corn maze, its members kept coming back to the idea of an “escape” after so much time trapped inside due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Eventually, they came up with their theme: Escape from Alcatraz.
“We just thought, ‘Escapism, and break out of your house and do something different,’” said Thomas Crudale, Clark Farms’ marketing manager. “You know, go to a corn maze in Matunuck.”
The Clark Farms Corn Maze, located at 2984 Commodore Perry Highway, Matunuck, has been a staple each fall for over a decade, Crudale said, though its theme changes every year. Past choices have included Atlantis and Western, and last year the farm honored people directly fighting COVID-19 with a “First Responders” theme.
To create a consistent theme, the farm gives out themed booklets and the stations within the maze describe the history and significance of Alcatraz.
Even the shape of the corn maze itself is themed. An aerial shot shows that the maze spells out “The Rock” — a reference to the 1996 movie where the Pentagon assigns a team to break into Alcatraz — and it includes a tower in the back right corner.
The theming isn’t the only aspect of the corn maze that changes yearly: Its path is different, and always expanding.
“Folks come in and say ‘Yeah, this was definitely harder than last year’ or ‘Yeah, that was way easier than last year,’” Crudale said. “People do recognize it too; it’s kind of crazy.”
Though it varies each year, Clark Farms visitors can expect to spend 15 to 45 minutes in the corn maze – longer, if they commit to finding each station and tracking their progress in a booklet.
“If they’re really dedicated and go and find every single station, they could really be in there for a while, closer to an hour plus,” Crudale said. “But most folks say, ‘We’ve had our fun for half an hour. Let’s go find the exhibits.’”
“The exhibits” include everything else that makes up Clark Farms’ “Fall Fest,” its name for the host of fall activities — including a zipline, a giant slide, a hayride and more — that it offers every weekend from mid-September through October.
The slide is what Crudale called “a big, big tube that runs through the side of, essentially, a cliff that we dug out and put a slide through,” and he said the zipline is “just the right size” – big enough for a thrill, yet small enough that it isn’t hazardous.
Whether they’re making the trip mainly for the corn maze or to enjoy all of Fall Fest, Crudale said Clark Farms’ patrons have been coming from farther and farther beyond southern Rhode Island.
He’s met people from East Lyme, Connecticut; North Attleboro, Massachusetts; and even New Jersey, and said he was surprised by how far his farm has reached.
“It’s good to know that you have a local attraction that is genuine enough that people from New Jersey say ‘Yeah, let’s take a trip up there and check out their little farm,’” Crudale said. “That definitely stuck out to me. I was kind of blown away by that.”
Tickets are $16 a person, and children 2 years old and younger get in for free. The ticket includes everything Fall Fest has to offer, including the corn maze, hay ride, petting zoo, zipline and more, Crudale said.