Contact Information

LaVerne Swenson
Cell: 563.419.1133
swenson.lagracia@gmail.com

Gilbertson Nature Center
563.426.5740
gncfccb@alpinecom.net
GNC Home

Fayette County Tourism
1-800-798-4447

Allamakee County Economic Development
1-800-824-1424

Clayton County Development
1-800-488-7572

Winnishiek Conservation and Vistors Bureau
1-800-463-4692

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


History of the Maize Maze

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Country Heritage Community, the four counties in NE Iowa, Fayette, Winneshiek, Clayton, and Allamakee started sponsoring the Maize Maze,1/2 mile east of Elgin, Iowa in 1998 with grant money from McElroy trust and Silos and Smokestacks. The goal at that time was for Silos and Smokestacks to begin telling the story of our American Agricultural heritage. Getting kids out in the fields, learning about our agricultural past, having fun and increasing tourism in our corner of the state was our goal.  Eventually the 37 counties in NE Iowa were designated America's Agricultural Heritage Park under the Dept. of Interiors park service. The maize maze was the spark plug that got the attention of Washington politions.and proved that NE Iowa wanted to be a national heritage area, [no.16]. This started funding to Silos & Smokestacks from the national park service.

The design of the first maze was the Froelich tractor, the fore runner to John Deere. The attendance the first year was 11,000. WOW!  How did this happen? Well, the McElroy trust fund originated from a former owner of the TV station KWWL, in Waterloo. So to kick off their summer program " YOUR TOWN", KWWL decided to do a live news broadcast from the Maze. The problem for KWWL was that the maze field east of Elgin is surrounded by hills. The truck with the transmitter for the live broadcast could not get high enough to send the signal to Waterloo. So, KWWL rented a 20 foot dish from Minneapolis. The signal was sent to a satellite.  CNN and other news broadcasting stations picked up the signal and put it on their news around the world. Military in Japan, Europe, and Florida and around the world saw the news broadcast about the Maze at Elgin. That year we had 11,500 visitors from all 50 states and 22 countries. In 1999 the maze had 9500 visitors for a total of 21, 000 the first 2 years. Of course that started a MAZE CRAZE and in 2000 there were 14 mazes in Iowa. In 1998, the CHC MAIZE MAZE was given the outstanding tourism award in Iowa and Laverne and Grace Swenson were given the outstanding volunteers of the year in Iowa.

In 1999 the design was the Bear and the theme was Effigy Mounds near Harpers Ferry. The reason, Effigy Mounds is one of only 3 national parks in Iowa. Park. Because of the tremendous success in 98 and 99, The CHC board decided to share the success with the other 3 counties in NE Iowa. So the maze was moved to Elkader for the 2000 season. They ran into many problems, one in particular, the soil they decided to have the maze on. It was not conducive to growing corn, so the maze did not even open in 2000.

In 2001 the maze was moved to George Ashbackers farm SE of Waukon in Allamakee County. George had a fairly successful season.

In 2002 the CHC committee decided  that the Gilbertson grounds east of Elgin was the perfect place to have the maze because of the sandy loam soil that rarely gets sticky. Also the grounds have a Nature center, a petting zoo, museum of old machinery and tools, a pond and 5 miles of walking trails. So the decision was made to make that spot the permanent place for the Maize maze.

In 2002, the year following 911, the design was an EAGLE, designed by Ed Lawrence of McGregor.

In 2003 the design was Montauk, home of Governor Larrabee. Larrabee was very involved in agriculture in Iowa, and his home is at Clermont.

In 2004 the design was a horse since the horse was a very important piece of American History.

In 2005 the design was a barn with a windmill. That year, CMT, Country Music Television from California, filmed a documentary of the Maze and put it on their SMALL TOWN SECRETS program.

In 2006 we gave recognization to the wild life in NE Iowa, deer, turkey, fish, trees, ducks, and birds.

In 2007 Upper Iowa University, Fayette sponsored the Maze as they celebrated 150 years as a university.    

1998 Maze Design (below) design by: Adrian Fisher, Dorset, England

 

In 1999, the maze design would be based on The Bear- an effigy located at Effigy Mounts National Park.

1999 Maze Design (below) design by: Reg Laursen, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa

 

In the years 2000 and 2001, the maze would be moved to Clayton County Iowa, just outside of Elkader, IA. Due to limited attendances in the new location, the maze would return to Elgin in 2002. The 2002 Design was entitled "Determination" honoring the American spirit and remembering those lost due to the horrific acts during 9/11.

2002 Maze Design (below) design by: Reg Laursen, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa

 

The 2003 maze design was Montauk Historic Governor's Home located in Clermont, IA.

2003 Maze Design (below) design by: Reg Laursen, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa

The 2004 design was "The Horse".

2004 Maze Design (below) design by: Reg Laursen, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa

 

The 2005 design was "The Wind on the Farm".

2005 Maze Design (below) design by: Reg Laursen, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa

 

The 2006 design was "Get Wild at the Maze".

2006 Maze Design (below) design by: Reg Laursen, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa

 

In 2007, the Maize Maze helped to honor and celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Upper Iowa University. T

2007 Maze Design (below) design by: John Siblik, Upper Iowa University, Fayette, Iowa

 

The 2008 design was another Professor John Siblik creation. The 2008 theme was "TAKO", for Take A Kid Outdoors.

2008 Maze Design (below) design by: John Siblik, Upper Iowa University, Fayette, Iowa

 

For 2009, another UIU representative- Sheila Miller, designed the maze.

2009 Maze Design (below) design by: Sheila Miller, Upper Iowa University, Fayette, Iowa

 

For 2010 and 2011, UIU also had a hand in the maze design. Harold Waterman (Class of '11) took the lead on designing the CFL Charlie logo for Touchstone Energy Cooperative in 2010 and the candlestick phone theme in 2011.

2010 and 2011 Maze Designs (below) design by: Harold Waterman, Upper Iowa University '11

2012 Maze Design (see below) designed by Harold Waterman, Studio 91, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin

2013 Maze Design (see below) designed by Students OK without Drugs and Alcohol

2014 Maze Design (see below) designed by Laverne Swenson

2015 Maze Design (see below)designed by Laverne Swenson

2015 Maze Design (see below)designed by Laverne Swenson

2016 Maze Design (see below)designed by Laverne Swenson