By SEAN ELLIS
MERIDIAN, Idaho -- A corn maze in southwest Idaho that features images of the two presidential candidates has attracted attention around the nation.
The 18-acre cornfield includes the likeness of President Barack Obama on the left and challenger Mitt Romney to the right.
The annual Farmstead Corn Maze and Pumpkin Festival, which attracts about 20,000 people a year, has in the past featured likenesses of a bumblebee, Abraham Lincoln, the Boise State University logo and a trout.
Corn and wheat farmer Jim Lowe said he always looks for a concept and design that will be recognizable and has good "maze value." He said portraits of the two candidates fit both bills and allowed him to provide a fun way for people to get engaged in the political process without being overtly political.
"We felt like those were a couple of recognizable faces that would create an impressive picture in a corn field," he said. "We feel the political process of choosing our president is a patriotic process and people should engage in that."
Lowe purposely kept this year's maze politically neutral and won't discuss whether heading left or right is the best tactic for making it through the maze.
"As a business, we are not taking a stand as far as which candidate to support," he said. "We feel it's important for people to do that on their own."
But the maze does include a pumpkin poll, which allows maze patrons to place a pumpkin in a pile for the candidate they prefer. Lowe has chosen to keep that poll low-key.
"Obviously we tend to be a more conservative state here and we've had a little more interest in that direction," is all he'll say about the results so far.
Lowe started the maze by drawing out the concept and design and then setting it to scale for the field. After heading into the field with the blueprints, "we did a lot of measuring, counting, scratching our heads and walking in circles," he said.
He chose not to use global positioning equipment, believing the old-fashioned way of creating a maze allowed him to be more precise on the details. What emerged were likenesses of Romney and Obama that have attracted nationwide attention.
New Yorker Magazine wrote a story about it, an aerial image of the field was used in Time Magazine, and Conde Nast Traveler magazine has asked Lowe for an aerial image.
The corn maze includes a pumpkin festival that includes farm-related activities designed to give people a realistic looks at what it takes to produce food.
Leah Clark, who heads the Idaho State Department of Agriculture's Idaho Preferred program and used to handle the department's agritourism efforts, said the maze "is a great example of how agritourism can provide unique opportunities for the agricultural industry."