A Profile in Corn

Sep 22, 2011

Coach Cal was in South America with the Dominican Republic team when he got a text message that a Central Kentucky farm was mapping his face into a 10-acre corn maze. “My first reaction was, ‘Is my nose really that big?’” Calipari recalls. The University of Kentucky basketball coach’s response made corn maze designer Jack Lane a little nervous.

“I hope I didn’t mess up his face,” said Lane Tuesday. “I really worked hard to make it recognizable. I mean it as an honor.”

Lane has cut likenesses in his corn field of Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Boone, Henry Clay and a horse and rider in honor of last year’s equestrian games.

Not to worry, Lane. Calipari feels honored.

“It just goes to show you the passion our fans at Kentucky have for their basketball team knows no boundaries,” Coach Cal said Tuesday.

“It’s another reminder of why I love coaching the Commonwealth’s team.”

Lane and the rest of the family at Kelley Farms off Old Richmond Road hope UK fans turn out for the maze’s debut Friday. It takes about an hour to get through the maze, which amounts to about five miles of paths.

And getting lost in Calipari’s face is part of the fun, says Lane, 33, a car salesman and part-time farmer who is just a few credits shy of a bachelor’s in mathematics from UK.

Lane grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles and came to Kentucky when he married his wife, Sarah, whose parents, John and Debra, own Kelley Farms.

The farm has been in the family since the 1960s, and John Kelley’s main crop is blackberries, which he sells at local farmers markets.

When their daughter and son-in-law suggested a corn maze five years ago, the Kelleys thought it might be a fun project for the family to do together. It’s not a big money-maker, and it requires long hours of work, but it’s worth it, says John Kelly, 71.

“It’s catching on,” he said of what has become a favorite fall destination that includes a pumpkin patch, children’s play area, Billy Goat skywalk and refreshments.

Because of the recent rain, this year’s maze is thick and green. The corn is planted late in the season, and after a few weeks, when the stalks are still small, Lane traces his design.

It takes about four weeks to chart the design on paper, Lane says, and about 40 hours to cut it out of the field.

“I’m really particular, so I like to do it all myself,” Lane says.

Later in the season, he goes back through the corn and cuts back some of the larger stalks to perfect the image.

The only difficult part was mapping Calipari’s face.

“It was kind of difficult,” Lane said, adding that to reproduce a face in a cornfield, he has to accentuate each facial feature, which may have led to the “big” nose.

A big UK fan himself, Lane assures Kentuckians, “I really did try to highlight his good points.”

The Giant Corn Maze at Kelley Farms
Open: Friday through Oct. 29
Location: 6483 Old Richmond Road, Lexington
Hours: Wednesday-Friday 6-10 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Price: $9 for ages 3 and up, $7 until 4 p.m. Saturday