York Maze is celebrating its 20th anniversary, so Absolutely Yorkshire caught up with farmer Tom Pearcy to weave around two decades of fun
This year you are celebrating your 20th anniversary – but how did the maze originally come about?
I was looking for ways to diversify the farming business following the foot and mouth crisis that closed much of the countryside. I had stumbled across a maize maze down south and thought it would work well in a tourist area like York. York Maze first opened in 2002.
Was it just the maze initially, or were there other attractions from the start?
It started just as a Maize Maze, then other activities were added to make it more of a day out. A sandpit, football area and giant garden games were first followed by a tractor ride and an opportunity to meet the cows who eat the Maize.
How would you say York Maze has evolved over two decades?
We were forced to move location in 2008 to make way for the University of York’s new campus and sports centre expansion. Relocating the business to an old farm on Elvington Lane was both a challenge and an opportunity. It gave me a blank canvas to create a new York Maze with investment in a big sand and water play area, coffee shop, toilets and other new attractions. York Maze has continued to evolve adding new shows and attractions each year. Where once visitors would stay only for a couple of hours, York Maze is now a full day out with over 20 attractions, rides and shows.
How tricky would you say the actual maze is to navigate?
Although it is the largest maize maze in Europe, I try not to make it too challenging. There is so much to do at York Maze we find visitors don’t want to be stuck in the Maize Maze all day!
What would you say makes the maze stand out?
We get a lot of praise for our amazing staff, which is lovely to see. We recruit and train welcoming fun-loving people. We challenge them to make every visitor’s day amazing!
Which of the other attractions are particularly popular?
For many years it was the House of Cornfusion that was our most popular attraction. It’s our quirky version of a fun house with over a dozen different zones including a mirror maze, shrinking corridor, and anti-gravity room. In 2021 we opened the new Crowmania Ride, which has quickly become our most popular attraction. Guests are seated on a trailer pulled by a big tractor through the woods where they meet a variety of corn themed animatronic creatures like the AfriCORN Elephant and the Spitting COBbra’s. We also meet a scaredy Scarecrow, the Crowfessor and the evil Crowman. It’s a sort of Panto on wheels, lasts about 20 minutes and involves lots of water splashes. Kid’s love getting wet!
Have you introduced anything new to mark the 20 years in 2022?
For our 20th anniversary year, we teamed up with LEGO to create the LEGO 90 years of Play Maze. We also opened a new show tent with a big three-storey stage to host our family shows that take place three times a day. Cornula 1 was a new addition for 2022, four cob cars race each other powered by the cheers of the crowd. The Musical Maze was our fourth new attraction for 2022, a dozen strange instruments hidden around a maze you have to find and play.
How would you say 2022 has gone for you so far?
It has been an amazing summer. We have had incredible feedback for our friendly staff, our great range of attractions and what great value a full day out at York Maze is.
There’s plenty of family fun, but you also stage weddings too. How long have you been doing that and what do you offer?
When the Maze season and Halloween have finished, we pack everything away and transform York Maze into a magical barn wedding venue. We only hold one wedding a week from April to June. A York Maze wedding includes three days venue hire meaning our couples have the opportunity to put their stamp on the event. We’ve hosted festival-style weddings with glamping, fairgrounds, axe throwing, in fact anything is possible!
We will soon have Hallowscream to look forward to. What can we expect to encounter?
Hallowscream is a night-time scarefest, a heady mixture of fear and fun with five live action scare houses, stage show, fire & light show, street theatre, roving characters, fairground rides, DJ, bar, food court and more. We employ over 100 actors each night to bring Hallowscream to life. We are proud to have won many awards including Yorkshire Event of the Year and the Best Scream Park in the UK. We open this year for 18 nights from Thursday 13 October to Saturday 5 November. Tickets must be booked online and the popular nights often sell out.
Why do you also have Hallowtween and how different is that?
Hallowtween is a slightly less scary version of Hallowscream and takes place from 12.30pm-5.30pm during October half term. It is aimed at families with children aged 10-15. We open four of the Hallowscream scare houses, but without the actors who inhabit them at night. There are two different shows that take place on the stage throughout the afternoon, street theatre characters, fairground rides, hot food and more.
You have had 20 years of success – what’s next?
We’re not giving anything away yet, but 2023 will see a new maze design to solve and some exciting new additions and changes to our amazing attractions. You can keep up to date through our social media channels or by signing up to our email list via our website.