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From left, Jarot Gress, Stephanie Gress and Lewis Gress of the Gress family were working together for this year’s opening night of the Union Gap Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch on Oct. 4.

The dry, crisp air burns my cheeks as it blows through the tall cornstalks. Dirt clods beneath my feet create uneven footing as I stroll through the maze that is a staple of Yakima’s autumn activities.

Unfortunately, the end has eluded me for three years now, but it still brings me joy every time I step into the twists and turns of the Union Gap Corn Maze.

Hundreds of people — if not thousands — spend their time and money at this annual attraction. And every time October rolls around, it seems to draw in more and more visitors.

The manager behind the maze is 20-year-old Jarot Gress. He is an employee at the Labbeemint mint oils supplier in Harrah. But for the past few autumns, Gress has also been dedicating hours in his busy schedule to planning and keeping the Union Gap Corn Maze in order.

About seven or eight years ago, Jarot’s parents, Lewis and Stephanie Gress, were given the opportunity to buy the business from the attraction’s previous owners. At that time, the Gresses had been helping with the maze for several years. They accepted the invitation and, from then on, the Union Gap Corn Maze has become a huge part of their son’s life every fall.

Because his parents had been involved with the site for many years before they acquired it, Gress says that he “wouldn’t really know what an October was like without the corn maze.”

Gress says there are only a few days when he doesn’t ever think about the corn maze or consider something to improve the site.

There are pitfalls and joys of working at the corn maze. Since he works a full-time job in addition to owning the property, preparing every year for the maze can often leave him tired in the fall when maze season comes around. However, it seems that the highs outweigh the lows when it comes to the business.

With such a heavy workload and a heartfelt mission, there is obviously a lesson to be learned from someone who works so hard to keep up this long-standing tradition, especially at a young age. Gress says running this business has taught him how to be responsible. Plus, it has turned him into a hard worker and someone who more strongly values the people he relies on.

The Union Gap Corn Maze has not only changed the people who run it for the better, but has also brought Yakima just a little bit closer.

As Gress says: “The reason I really like working down here is that especially on Friday and Saturday nights, a lot of our customers are younger people, and I really like that this is a good area for everyone to enjoy, rather than people possibly getting into trouble. I really like posing an opportunity for everyone to enjoy a property.”

Moira Lindner is a junior at Riverside Christian School.