Lose yourself in NIU’s 125-year legacy at Jonamac maze

Jonamac Orchard is giving Northern Illinois University its own field of dreams this year. A corn maze honoring NIU’s 125th anniversary debuted over the weekend on Saturday, Aug. 29.

The massive maze, a local tradition each fall, makes up one of many agricultural spreads surrounding campus. Given the university’s rural roots, perhaps there is no tribute more iconic for commemorating its 1895 founding than this canvas of a carved 10-acre cornfield.

“Even during a year that hasn’t always gone as planned, our campus and community have continued to find ways to celebrate NIU’s anniversary,” said Chief of Staff to the President and Liaison to the Board of Trustees Matt Streb, who co-chaired NIU’s 125th Anniversary Committee. “Jonamac Orchard is a popular destination for people throughout the region and it is exciting visitors will get to be a part of our quasquicentennial celebration.”

Just 10 minutes down the road from campus, Jonamac is also popular for its apple picking, pumpkin patch, petting zoo and cider house. The orchard is open seven days a week, drawing visitors from the DeKalb area to Chicagoland each year.

Jonamac is often approached by local businesses and institutions seeking to be immortalized in its famous field, which last recognized the Chicago Bears’ 100th season. The autumnal maze also previously featured a Huskie in its two decades of designs before depicting the 125th anniversary logo this year — with “NIU” spelled out in letters stretching 40-45 feet tall.

“Most of the family has had some sort of ties with NIU for education, and my wife and I are alumni,” said Mike Spychal, part of the third generation of family members running the orchard. “Just being close to campus, Jonamac tends to share a lot of visitors with the university.” 

Customers at Jonamac can explore the maze Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Halloween, with nighttime hours on Saturdays and additional haunted events after dark Fridays and Saturdays in October. The maze is split into two halves that each take 20-30 minutes to explore.

There are many more upcoming opportunities to celebrate NIU’s landmark year — from  virtual and in-person events to monthly chapters highlighting key moments in the university’s history. Visit the 125th anniversary website to learn more. 

“The timeline for some of our main events, lectures and concerts will continue into 2021, as NIU can safely accommodate larger audiences in accordance with local health regulations,” said Streb. “In the meantime, we’re thankful to local partners like Jonamac for offering fun and unique opportunities to celebrate NIU’s history.”

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