On the QEII highway, South of Red Deer and North of Calgary, you’ll find the Town of Bowden. Bowden’s history is like most Albertan farming communities, in 1887 homesteaders arrived in search of fertile land and opportunity. By census time in 1901, the population had grown from a small handful of families to 54 and by the 1911 census there were 598 people living in Bowden Village.
Somewhere between 1901 and 1911, Farmer John arrived with other settlers and began farming the land that is now known as the Bowden SunMaze. According to the SunMaze Farm History challenge, after Farmer John arrived, he lived in a wooden grain bin for two years before building a farm house.
It’s Farmer John‘s young descendant, Farmer John Mills, who now works the land and is an advocate for Agricultural Tourism (Ag Tourism). In 2012, a tree maze will open on the farm.
Without knowing any of this history, we found a sign for the SunMaze on one of our off the beaten path treks, and decided it worth a visit when we saw the maze’s sunny sunflower faces on the internet.
If you want to see the sunflowers in their full smiling glory, August is probably the best time to visit (the Lily Festival happens on the August Long Weekend); however, the sunflowers were still smiling for us when we arrived in September, and they happily swayed back and forth in the warm wind as we wandered through the maze.
The flower shaped maze is a combination of sunflower and corn. The sunflower portion is shaped like a little bee that sits beside a large flower (the corn maze). For some reason, the sunflowers made the maze less ominous and when we were hungry it was easy to have a little chewy sunflower snack. Bluebirds and a variety of small birds thought the same thing; as we explored each nook and cranny looking for answers to the sunflower quiz, they greeted us with chirps and flapping wings.
It was the animals on the farm that made the day an extra special experience — donkeys, miniature horses, a pot belly pig, roosters, and much talked about kitty cats. After becoming the best friend of a very friendly gray cat, we wandered through the maze looking for the mysterious black cat who is known to follow people through the maze and guide them out when they get lost.
We never did find the black cat, but we did find out that at the end of the season none of the sunflowers and corn will go to waste; all will be harvested and fed to the farm animals over the winter months.
Kid Rating: 4 out of 5 because of the animals and the kitty cats; I liked telling the rooster what to do. The maze was shorter and not muddy. I’m sad that we couldn’t find the black cat.
Adult Rating: 4 out of 5 because it was a really nice place to be; the drive was easy and there was no drama during the visit. The staff were super friendly and the bathrooms immaculate. I liked the layout of both the sunflower and corn maze and both were well maintained; the maze challenge was a lot of fun.