Holy cow! Corny idea worth a reprise

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 7, 2000

STACYVILLE, Iowa – The other night, some well-meaning Stacyville residents visited their favorite cornfield to be sure the corn wasn’t growing.

Friday, July 07, 2000

STACYVILLE, Iowa – The other night, some well-meaning Stacyville residents visited their favorite cornfield to be sure the corn wasn’t growing.

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"We wanted to be sure there would be paths through the cornfield. You can’t have a corn maze without paths to walk through it," Harlan Bisbee said.

Just when north Iowans and southern Minnesotans thought it was safe to enjoy summer, the Cows in the Corn Maze project looms ahead.

Yes, there will be a second corn maze in a field south of Stacyville.

No, Ed Halbach is not in charge this year. That responsibility belongs to Bisbee, the Stacyville city clerk and treasurer.

"The maze is a fund-raiser to help toward building a new Stacyville Public Library," Bisbee said. "Last year, we raised an estimated $8,000 from the project and this year we expect to raise more."

The corn maze is serio-comic business. Sure, it’s silly, but the purpose is noble and like others being pursued in the community, it is being done to keep the rural community strong.

This summer, corporations like DuPont are helping the community. DuPont donated $2,500 and the city has feelers out for more contributions.

Halbach, who owns a successful floral and gift business with his wife Theresa, conceived the idea a year ago.

With T-shirts, a Web site and a publicity blitz, Halbach and other supporters made Stacyville, Iowa, famous for a summer.

Volunteers planted 4,000 sunflowers and took turns selling admissions to people willing to battle the heat and humidity, as well as skeeters and other summertime pests to walk – and sometimes get lost – in a maze.

The design seen from the sky above showed two Holstein dairy cows and Cows in the Corn Maze idea caught on and never let go.

People from all over the Upper Midwest took detours off U.S. Highway 218 to visit the Mitchell County community and walk through towering corn stalks for the library fund-raiser.

A map was constructed to show from where the visitors came and more than a dozen foreign countries soon were represented.

This summer, the same maze design will be repeated, but there is a new official maze logo. Instead of just a cow in the cornfields, there will be a cartoon figure of a cow reading a book in a cornfield.

"We thought it was more appropriate," Bisbee said. "After all, that’s what this is all about. We’re trying to raise money for a new library." The Stacyville City Council has set aside between $60,000 and $65,000 for the library project to go with the corn maze profits.

The site has been chosen next to Bawek Shoe Store on Stacyville’s main street and the new library will replace a small, antiquated location that shares a building with the Stacyville City Council across the street from the town’s fire station.

The library portion of the building is upstairs and is not handicapped accessible. The new library will be on ground level and completely handicapped accessible.

In addition, it will have the space for Internet-connected public computer terminals as well as the regular stacks of fiction and non-fiction, books, reference materials, audio and visual tapes and newspapers and periodicals.

The price tag: an estimated $350,000.

"We’re handicapped because we don’t have any industries or other corporate presence here. The money has to come from the people," Bisbee said.

If raising $350,000 for a new library sounds ambitious, so does the city’s plans for economic development.

The Stacyville Economic Development Corp. is being organized, Bisbee said, "to help the town grow."

According to Bisbee, the SEDC believes Stacyville can serve as an ideal "bedroom" community for families working elsewhere. The new organization hopes to recruit clients who see the community’s possibilities for development of small businesses.

Halbach is the SEDC’s board president. He is assisted by Bisbee as well as other board members Todd Theobald, Barb Thome and Leroy Steward.

Neil Wubben and the Mitchell County Extension Service are assisting in scheduling community meetings to gain input from citizens as well as new SEDC members.

Bisbee points to the recent announcement that OmniTel Communications of Nora Springs, Iowa, is now doing business in Stacyville.

The firm offers both telephone and cable television services; a first for a single company to be able to offer both services in a single community.

"The permit was granted in March and they plan to offer state-of-the-art services via fiber optic cable to their customers," Bisbee said. "Everyone on the council was eager when they announced they were coming to town and when the public voted at a referendum in March, it was 51-to-1 in favor of OmniTel."

The city also has ventured into tax increment financing with good results. Water services were extended to an elevator in northwest Stacyville most recently. In an earlier TIF district, 11 lots behind the Stacyville Nursing Home were developed for residences. Seven of the lots have been sold and five homes already are built on their lots while two more could come later this year in the Pitzen Addition.

"If we bring open land into the city, we want to see that the land is used for purposes that will benefit both the developer and the community," Bisbee said of the city’s TIF focus.

At the same time, Bisbee said the council members have another important goal.

"We want to keep our existing businesses in Stacyville strong and viable," he said.

Sydney Heimer, the city’s library director, is waiting anxiously, but, like the rest of the community, also is patient for the city’s efforts to reach fruition.

Right now, the annual summer reading program called "Cosmic Connections at Your Library" and other library duties dominates her attention.

But Heimer knows as well as Bisbee and other Stacyville boosters, as the community grows, so will its needs, including a library.

That’s what makes this summer’s Cows in the Corn corn maze craziness important.