MURTAUGH — Jose Simental knows how to slingshot an ear of corn right smack into the middle of a target.
“I just close my left eye and aim kinda at the side of the target,” said Jose, a fourth-grader at Murtaugh Elementary School, as he demonstrated his technique.
Jose and a hundred other students in Murtaugh’s After School program visited the Magic Valley Corn Maze on Tuesday.
The corn maze is meant to be scary at night, but that afternoon, it was nothing but fun.
Shyloh Perkins and Adriana Ramirez played a game of checkers on an electrical spool with purple and orange squares.
“So far, it’s a tie,” Shyloh said, pointing to deadlocked baby pumpkin checker pieces. “Well, we’re actually stuck.”
Tylee Young and Teague Gunnell played a game of Jenga made from short two-by-fours. In a “sandbox” framed by straw bales and filled with corn kernels, little Wyatt Hepworth and his friends scooped kernels into toy dump trucks and emptied them into miniature silos.
Older students fired ears of corn from an air cannon.
Children disappeared into the large corn maze called “Field of Screams” and re-emerged a half-hour later.
Murtaugh siblings Colleen Wilkins and Travis Stastny, with spouses, Kip Wilkins and Carol Stastny, have operated the corn maze for several years. The four own Hollyberry Nursery between Murtaugh and Hansen.
“Kip wanted to do this,” Colleen said. “He wanted to see kids laugh.”
Mission accomplished. The maze receives visitors from schools across the valley, and families from as far as Elko, she said.
The corn maze is a complicated pattern cut using GPS for precision. It spells out the Stotz Equipment logo if seen from above.
Visitors wander through the cornfield, through a spooky bus, a spider tunnel and into the nursery’s “forest” of spruce and pines for extra thrills.
“It’s really scary when it becomes haunted,” Colleen said. The maze becomes haunted on Saturdays after dark.
Most folks can usually get through the maze in 45 minutes, but others take twice as long. One family got lost and had to exit through the entrance, she said.
Ten-year-old Brianna Cabral is looking forward to Halloween.
“I’m going to dress up like a skeleton or a Greek goddess,” she said.
Eight-year-old Kayle Gomez loves the maze.
“My favorite part is all the decorations and the creepy stuff.”
If you do one thing: Sun Valley Jazz and Music Festival will be held all day, beginning at 9:30 a.m., at the Sun Valley Inn and other venues. Cost for an all-day pass starts at $67. Children under 13 admitted free when accompanied by an adult.
GOODING — Voters in Gooding County have a simple choice to make this November election: Do they like the current City Council and mayor, or do they want change?
City Council challengers Chuck Cram and Colin Smith — and mayoral challenger Jeff Brekke — presented a united front against incumbent Council members Mel Magnelli and Diane Houser and Mayor Walt Nelson to a little more than 100 people Wednesday night as they gathered at the Gooding High School during a candidate forum sponsored by the Times-News.
“We’re running essentially as a team,” Brekke said. “We would like to see all of us elected to city government. We think there are areas that we can improve upon.”
The incumbents liked how the city government has been doing things and wanted to continue on some of the efforts they’ve started. But challengers felt new faces to the Council could bring better transparency and communication to Gooding residents.
And while candidates agreed that the city needs to beautify downtown, solve its workforce shortage and manage the budget responsibility, they had different ideas of how those could be approached.
Smith, who teaches high school in Shoshone, wants the city to create relationships with businesses to help improve the look of downtown.
But Houser, who’s been on the Council eight years, warned against offering help to businesses for projects such as painting. This could open a can of worms, she said, “because you can’t do that for everybody.”
Smith also wanted sidewalks to be installed from the bowling alley to the hospital, and other candidates noted the poor condition of sidewalks throughout town.
Houser said damaged sidewalks are not the city’s responsibility.
“It is actually the responsibility of the property owner,” she said, adding that work is being done to establish a grant program to encourage these repairs.
And the city can’t do anything to improve Main Street itself, Nelson said, because it’s a state highway.
“That’s for them to take care of,” he said. “We can’t even fix a pot hole.”
Magnelli, who’s been on the Council almost 12 years, said he believed the city is doing the best it can with what it has and can control.
Brekke and Cram thought that making Main Street more presentable to visitors would help encourage new businesses. Brekke manages the Valley Country Store and owns Gooding Fitness Center; Cram is a “semi-retired” contractor.
While largely in favor of bringing small- to medium-sized businesses to town, candidates brought up the hurdles Gooding has with low unemployment, limited housing and needed sewer upgrades.
“It’s going to be tough to get businesses to come into Gooding if there isn’t a workforce,” Nelson said.
But attracting new residents will take more housing, and “Nobody is going to come to Gooding to build a spec house.”
The mayoral candidates, Nelson and Brekee, differed on how they though the city’s budget should be managed. Brekke wanted to see the city be more productive and free up money where it could in its budget by more deeply questioning department heads.
But Nelson countered that.
“They know their job better than I do, and better than anyone on the Council,” he said. “Micromanaging is not the way to run a city.”
In discussing goals for the upcoming term, Magnelli was in favor of upgrading the sewer system. He and Houser also want to finally make whole the flood wall along the Little Wood River to protect children in a nearby park.
Similarly, Smith wanted speed bumps next to the city pool.
Brekke said his focus would be having more communication and openness.
“We want to foster a sense of community with new folks, and get new folks involved,” Brekke said.
Nelson said there already was a sense of community, but he would like to see people take pride in their town by improving their own lots and sidewalks.
Gooding residents will vote Nov. 7 on who will take the mayor and two open council positions. The two City Council candidates with the most votes will win the election. Having challengers with a united front may put more pressure on Magnelli and Houser to retain their seats.
“We are running as a group,” Smith said. “And we’re not ashamed of that.”
FILER — Candidates for city offices have few, if any, differences in opinions.
Wednesday evening, residents filled the Filer Middle School auditorium to hear both mayoral and City Council hopefuls pitch their ideas in a candidate forum organized by the Southern Idaho Progressive Coalition and moderated by Doug Maughn.
Four candidates are running for mayor — three of the four have years of experience in city government.
Russell “Bud” Sheridan and Bob Templeman are former mayors; Ruby Allen and Sheridan are currently on the City Council.
David Vance, a Filer businessman, has lived in Filer for 40 years. If elected, it will be his first time as a city official.
Six candidates are running for City Council. All except Joseph Lineberry are new to the political scene.
Newcomers include Samuel Callen, Joseph Durham, Candise Ramsey, Sharilynne Underwood and Carl J. Storey. Storey did not participate in the forum.
The mayoral candidates focused on how to heal the rift in town.
“Filer is a wonderful place to raise your kids,” Templeman said. “But the town is split — I’ve never seen such division.”
Templeman and Vance blame the division on the current officials.
“We have had a total lack of leadership,” Vance said.
Candidates discussed whether it would be possible to rebuild the crumbling Main Street area and painted a not-so-pretty picture.
“Buildings are dilapidated,” Vance said, suggesting a bulldozer would be a good fix.
“There is opportunity here, but we’ll need community support,” Templeman said.
“I can remember when Filer was a busy town,” Sheridan said. “Children move away; they have to go where the jobs are. Unfortunately the jobs aren’t here.”
Weeds, abandoned vehicles and dogs running loose on the streets reveal an unwillingness to enforce city codes.
“I want to put the city back together,” Vance said. “The old way didn’t work. It’s time to try something new.”
City Council candidates agreed.
“We don’t need to the ordinances changed,” Callen said. “They just need to be enforced. We need transparency and community involvement.”
“Officials need to be an open book,” Durham said.
“We’re too good of a community to throw it aside,” Templeman said.