Between graduate school applications, career fairs and capstone projects, the Class of 2017 seems to be collectively feeling the impending reality of post-undergraduate adulthood looming on the horizon. Along with this realization that the relatively carefree lifestyle of college can’t last forever, may come a nostalgic desire to be a kid “” or a first year “” again. To any and all seniors who find themselves feeling this, I have one piece of advice: go to the South Texas Maize this fall and explore what this festival has to offer.
About 40 miles west of Trinity’s campus is a holy little town called Hondo, Texas. The welcome sign for Hondo famously states “THIS IS GOD’S COUNTRY PLEASE DON’T DRIVE THROUGH IT LIKE HELL,” and the motto of Hondo itself is simply: “This is God’s country.” An essential annual tradition that gives Hondo its character is the South Texas Maize, a fall festival on the Graff 7A Ranch.
Upon entering Graff Ranch, you receive a map of all the attractions available. From MatterCorn Mountain, a man-made hill equipped with tube slides that run from its peak to ground level, to the Apple Cannons, huge metal air cannons from which people launch perfectly edible green apples at iron silhouettes of cows and cowboys place roughly 50 yards out. There are over a dozen attractions beyond these two, each as decidedly country and uniquely hilarious as the last. Some, like the Corn Poppers, trampolines formed by trapping air between the ground and a rubber sheet, are geared more towards children than adults. And some, like the Bon Jovi cover band, are evidently more geared towards adults rather than children.
The perks of this all-ages design of the festival for a college senior is twofold: we can still choose to partake in the elements designed for kids, all while retaining the option to consume the plentiful beer and wine available for adults only. And no, they don’t breathalyze people before shooting the Apple Cannons. Indeed, this is wholesome fun in God’s country.
Even though there is a variety of delightful activities, by far the main attraction is the “Maize.” Each year the Maize has a different design, over seven acres in area and made up of two phases. Participants navigate through the maze using what’s called a “passport,” a half-sheet of paper with ten multiple choice questions on it. The maze itself has ten markers corresponding to the ten questions; get the trivia correctly and the passport tells you the correct direction to go, but answer the question incorrectly and you’re sent on a detour. There are multiple passports focusing on different subjects, including American History, Scripture Trivia and HEB Trivia (HEB partnered with the Graff 7A Ranch this year), forming a holy trinity of traditional Texan life. The group I attended the maze with opted to take a variety of passports, really putting our quality liberal arts education to use.
I only learned after leaving the ranch grounds and visiting their website that the “Maize” isn’t actually planted in corn, but in haygrazer, the plant hay bales are made of. I was initially outraged and felt duped, as the attractions are all named after corn and corn-related things, with heavy doses of corn puns everywhere. Yet the reasoning the Graff Ranch provides is that haygrazer is both more drought-tolerant and pest-resistant, allowing the Maize to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly. No environmental studies major would fault them for that, although I’m fairly certain 99 percent of Maize goers have no idea it isn’t made of corn. Regardless, what better way to feel like a kid again than to run around in a maze and feel special for knowing the three branches of the U.S. government?
Exploring the grounds, jumping and sliding, discussing the potential moral implications of pig racing all while devouring a massive bag of hot kettle corn proved the most lighthearted, freeing fun my fellow seniors and I have had in a long time. For a few hours, we weren’t worried about Statements of Purpose or LSAT or MCAT scores. In the crisp early-October air, fireworks exploding all around us, the South Texas Maize satisfied the primal urge to return to our childhoods.
Seniors, reaching the end of our undergrad era, deserve some final hurrahs, and this Hondo tradition serves as the perfect nostalgic portal to simpler times. While we can’t stay in college forever, and indeed it would be highly concerning if one did, there is no harm in allowing yourself to be free and playful when the time is right. In fact, the sort of active and silly entertainment the festival provides is liberating and energizing in a positive way, allowing me to tackle midterms with a renewed sense of purpose. “Work hard, play hard” seems to be a theme in the Trinity community. There is ample room to play in Hondo. If my experience is any indication, the South Texas Maize is an absolute must for anyone wrapping up their time in Texas or San Antonio.
The festival runs until Nov. 20, and admission is $15 plus tax for adults. Come with closed-toed shoes and an open mind, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.