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Corn maze a nod to first responders

Afton Apple Orchard has been honoring first responders this fall.

For its fifth weekend, Afton Apple's corn maze will host and honor local EMS, fire and police departments. Corn maze paths spell out "thank your local heroes," and the orchard held meet-and-greets and other events with officers.

"They were really excited to do that, and I was excited that they would come out to our corn maze," Afton Apple manager Sarah Parkos said.

Parkos said they featured four local departments this year: Woodbury, Hastings, Cottage Grove and Washington County.

"We couldn't decide who was most local because we receive help from all of them," she said.

The departments receive help from Afton Apple in return, as the orchard is donating $3 of each adult corn maze admission ticket to the department featured that weekend. They have been filling a firefighter's boot each weekend, and the city department with the most money raised will receive those donations in addition to up to a $1,000 match from the orchard.

"We wanted to get the community involved and show our support because they're the ones on the front lines for us," Parkos said.

The orchard had K-9 visits and demonstrations from Washington County and Hastings, meet-and-greets and equipment on site. Cottage Grove is honored Oct. 22-23.

The 15-acre corn maze is one of a number of attractions at the orchard. This year's maze is cut with images of squad cars and public safety symbols. There will also be trivia questions throughout the maze.

"There are 24 stations throughout the maze with trivia relating to the theme," Parkos said. "Some of them are kind of funny, like one that asks, 'Why do they have the stereotypes like why they love to eat donuts?'"

Afton Apple contracts with a Utah company to design the corn maze. The orchard provides a theme and then the two groups develop the look they want.

"We plant the corn, we coordinate with them and create the design, and then they professionally cut it," Parkos said. "We stick to what we're good at, and they stick to what they're good at."

The maze will be open rain or shine, unless there is lightning or torrential rain.

Admission to the corn maze is $9 for adults and $7 for children. The maze is open 4-10 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 31. Its hours during the MEA holiday will be noon to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, and noon to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21.

The orchard is open each day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Afton Apple is at 14421 90th St., Hastings. For more information, call 651-436-8385.