Sometimes people make it through the Missoula Maze in half an hour. Other times they just give up.

"Last night, I had some people who said, 'Just get me out of here the shortest way. We're done,' " said Earl Ellingson.

The first half is cut into a cornfield, while the second half is stacked from hay bales, in total covering more than an acre and nearly a mile of passageways.

"If you walk down every pathway, it's a mile, but if you make too many circles it could be longer than that," Ellingson said.

Ellingson and his wife Christina have built the maze out on Clements Road for seven years now.

The two enjoyed the ones they'd tried in Colorado and Bozeman, and decided to give Missoula a maze of its own.

"We got started with just hay bales and then moved into the combined hay bales and corn," Christina said. "That's the first time we've seen those two put together, and it really makes it fun because it feels like you're advancing."

She compared it to advancing to the next level on a video game, a little boost to let participants know they've made it halfway.

The two design the cornfield portion on paper and the bale half with Legos, and then make a grid on the ground. They work on the corn field all summer and bring in the bales from a farmer in Corvallis about two weeks before opening.

Mountain View Elementary School hosts the maze, which is fun for the students. Depending on the teacher, they can play in the maze during recess.

Early in the season, teachers might have to find a lost kid, Earl said, but by the end of the season they've mastered it.

The average time is 20 minutes to half an hour, although some people have said it took them a full 60 minutes.

How often do people get lost? "It happens all the time," Christina said. "Every day."

The true challenge comes during the Night Maze, when markers like the mountains aren't visible.

Sometimes people will get almost to the end, only to head back toward the middle.

"We end up having to give people several hints to get them started down the right way, or to tell them the strategy," she said.

It could be all lefts, or all rights. And if you really get lost, just ask for the way out.

Hours for the Missoula Maze are noon to 5 p.m. Friday, 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.

The maze is located at 1010 Clements Road at Mountain View Elementary.

Admission is free for kids 3 and under; $5 for ages 4-12; $8 for adults 13 to 65; and $5 for seniors 66 and over.

For more information, go to missoulamaze.com.

***

Here's a select list of family-friendly Halloween activities going on this weekend in Missoula.

The llama barn at the Missoula County Fairgrounds has once more become spoiled and sullied ground for the Missoula Haunted House.

It's the third year Roothead Studios, a video production company, has built an elaborate haunted house for Halloween, with multiple rooms, gory costumes and a story line.

This year's theme is "Once Upon a Nightmare and Other Tales of Horror," centering on a cursed book that, according to Roothead's website, "feasts upon every word, poisoning each story, driving their characters mad. All the stories of the world are lost to its spoiled and putrid pages. Now it waits for your story, to devour and lock between its tormented covers."

General admission tickets are $10, and express admission costs $15.

Hours are 7 to 11 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday.

Kids' hours are Halloween day, 4-6 p.m. Admission is $5 and parents are free.

***

Over at Travelers' Rest State Park in Lolo, kids and their families are invited to a "Trekker Kids Haunted Museum."

The museum, dedicated to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, will host activities like face painting, a parkwide scavenger hunt and a chance to "build your own monster." Kids are encouraged to wear costumes.

Entrance is $2 for children and free for adults, and the activities run from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

The park is located at 6717 U.S. Highway 12 West in Lolo. Go to stateparks.mt.gov/travelers-rest for more information.

***

Missoula's Currents Aquatics Center is offering an alternative to the teeth-wrecking candy of Halloween.

You can buy 10 individual swim passes for $29 for kids ages 7 to 12, and $21.75 for kids ages 2 to 6. Kids younger than 6 are always free.

Currents is located at McCormick Park. Call 721-PARK (7275) for more information.

***

The Missoula Family YMCA is throwing an afternoon-long "Hoot and Howl Halloween Bash."

The first in what's billed as an annual event has "a healthy trick-or-treat option, hay bale photo booth, bounce houses, fun dance tunes, a costume contest, bobbing for apples, spooky swim, scary sports, creepy climbing and a haunted school bus for the thrill seekers," according to organizers.

Admission is free with a nonperishable food donation for the Missoula Food Bank. The Y is located at 3000 S. Russell St.

**

Southgate Mall has teamed up with the Hospice Care Foundation for a "Halloween for Hospice," which will raise money for the foundation's hospice work.

The lineup includes carnival games from 4:30 to 7 p.m. throughout the mall. The "funtivities" promised are a duck pond, bowling and "pin the tail on the rat." Games are $1 a piece or $15 for unlimited game playing.

Kids can compete in the costume contest from 4:30 to 7 p.m., in multiple age categories including adults and groups. Entry fee is $2 or $5.

Don't miss the annual zombie "Thriller" performance at 7, when students from On Center for the Performing Arts stage Michael Jackson's classic video at the JC Penney Court.

Kids can also trick-or-treat at stores throughout the mall from 6 to 9 p.m.

For more information, go to shopshouthgate.com or hcfmissoula.com.

***

At Dragon Hollow in Caras Park, kids have one more chance to see the "Haunted Hollow," which is open from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday.

Visitors to Haunted Hollow can enjoy haunted carousel rides, flashlight tours of the decorated Dragon Hollow, spooky culinary demonstrations, and more. 

Haunted Hollow is designed for children 12 and younger, and is deliberately less scary than other haunted houses around town. Admission is $4 for kids younger than 12 and $6 for 12 and older.

To produce the Hollow, A Carousel for Missoula partnered with the University of Montana's University Players, Hellgate High School Key Club, Hellgate High School National Honor Society and the Hellgate High School volleyball team.

Call 549-8382 for more information.

***

What's Halloween without terrifying spiders? At the Missoula Insectarium, kids can get their thrills via "spider mummy games, finger-painting spiders and spooky snack making" from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

At 3 p.m., there will be a costume contest, and a tarantula feeding at 3:30 p.m. Throughout the day, kids can trick-or-treat for candy and learn spider facts and see some special spiders on display. Kids of all ages are welcome. Hours at the Insectarium, 218 E. Front St., are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $4. Kids 3 and younger and members get in for free.

***

Drama students at Big Sky High School are continuing their run of the ever-appropriate October musical "The Addams Family" on Friday and Saturday.

The family-friendly show is being staged at the schools auditorium at 3401 South Ave.

Shows start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $7, available at the door. At the Halloween show, there's a costume contest during intermission. There will also be an optional donation of either non-perishable food items or money for the Food Bank.

***

Christ the King Church is hosting its Fall Carnival on Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the church, 1400 Gerald Ave. There will be food for purchase, games, music, crafts and prizes. Costumes are encouraged, although not scary ones. All are welcome to attend.

***

The Missoula Folklore Society is throwing a Halloween dance from 8 to 11 p.m. Saturday at the Missoula Senior Center, 705 S. Higgins Ave. A beginners' workshop will take place at 7:30 p.m. The event costs $6 for UM students with a Griz Card and $9 for general admission. Costumes are encouraged but not required.

The dance features Irish music by Skippin’ a Groove, and Morna Leonard will teach and call dance steps. Refreshments will be provided.

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