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Sarah Palin Corn Maze Gains Farmer National Attention

Google “Sarah Palin corn maze.”

Seriously. Right now.

Not at a computer?

Sigh ...

All right. Fine. I’ll do it for you.

OK, typing it in. Well, well, well, what have we here? Guess Duke Wheeler was right. He really does have a corn maze designed to look like the Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate. The first Web site found in the Google search is http://www.whitehousecornmaze.com the s,ite for The Corn Maze at The Butterfly House in Whitehouse, Ohio. Duke owns the place with his wife, Martha Wheeler.

If you look at the picture of the maze, you’ll see a rendering of Palin’s head and shoulders (complete with her famous glasses) with the words “Sarah America” written above.

Continuing the Google search, you’ll find references to the Palin maze in all kinds of media outlets: The Dallas Morning News, FOX News, CNN.com, BuzzFeed, Kooky Liberals, etc.

Duke, 54, came up with the idea this summer, shortly after Sarah Palin was named as John McCain’s running mate. The announcement of her candidacy created a lot of buzz, he said, and he hoped to use that to get some media exposure for his farm. He appears to have succeeded.

“She was so exciting to watch,” he said. “I took a gamble that if we made the maze we’d get some attention.”

Shawn Stolworthy of MazePlay Inc. designed and cut the maze Sept. 23. Palin’s portrait is 600 feet long, according to MazePlay’s Web site.

Though Duke is a Republican and supports the McCain-Palin ticket, he wasn’t trying to make a political statement. What he really wanted was to get more people from the Toledo area (about 20 minutes from Whitehouse) to visit his farm.

Most of the attention has been positive – although one customer said she would never visit again. That was disappointing, but it was the only negative comment Duke had heard to that point.

The lighthearted intent of the maze seemed to create a climate of political tolerance. Members of both parties got something out of the experience. Democrats liked walking all over Sarah Palin. Republicans liked the postcards. In an environment like that, people find they have more similarities than differences, Duke said.

All the publicity was great, but perhaps the best thing the maze did for Duke and his family was earn them a face-to-face meeting with the real Sarah Palin and her family. She was making a speech in Findlay, Ohio, Oct. 22, and her campaign invited the Wheelers to visit. They met her near her plane. She thanked them for the maze. She had seen it from the air and “thought it looked good.” It was an “unbelievable” experience, he said.

Duke and his wife have lived on their “farm” for more than two decades, and there’s a lot more going on than just corn and soybeans. There’s The Butterfly House, a glass house with beautiful gardens inside that displays live butterflies from around the world. There’s a greenhouse that sells chemical-free nectar and host plants for butterflies. There’s the u-cut Christmas tree farm with its 75,000 trees (they supply Christmas trees to the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Springs, Texas, and hope to get one of their trees in the White House someday). There’s the 1-acre pond where they raise freshwater shrimp.

And finally, there are five corn mazes on 31 acres. That endeavor started last year with a butterfly themed maze. It’s been a great learning experience, Duke said.

One last thing about the Palin maze: The Wheelers had an unofficial poll going among its patrons. Each person passing through was able to “vote” for Obama-Biden or McCain-Palin. As of Oct. 23, McCain and Palin were up by 7 percent. By the time you read this, you’ll know if that was accurate.

Originally posted Friday, Nov. 14, 2008