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Posted on Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Wiard's Orchards combines family fun with haunted house as seasonal business strategy

By Laura Blodgett

School buses are everywhere and there is a crispness in the air - no doubt about it, the Halloween season is officially here and with it comes Wiard’s Orchard opening this weekend in Ypsilanti Township.


Wiard's Orchards' business strategy combines a family-oriented County Fair during the day and Night Terrors haunted house amusement in the evenings.

photos by Laura Blodgett

The 100-acre Wiard’s site offers everything anyone could ever want for fall fun--apple and pumpkin picking, a country store, bakery, cider mill, corn maze, fire engine ride, mini golf, hayrides, giant slide, straw mountain, petting farm, pedal tractor races, moonwalk, bungee run and more.

If that wasn’t enough, Wiard’s also runs a separate nighttime operation called Night Terrors, Michigan’s Premier Haunted Thrill Park featuring six haunted attractions with names like The Asylum, Hayrides of the Lost and Alien Caged Clowns.

“We do both businesses because they are different entertainment venue styles that go with different kinds of people,” said Rose Timbers, special events coordinator at Wiard’s, who has been with the operation for 22 years.

“The Country Fair is great family fun as well as being great for seniors or couples—you can come out and pick the perfect pumpkin, take a wagon ride, have a donut. We try to offer the best agri-entertainment experience you could have.”


Rose Timbers, special events coordinator at Wiard’s, shows off some of the seasonal treats for sale at the "agri-entertainment" complex.

But when the Country Fair closes at 6 p.m., a completely separate staff comes on to bring up the Night Terrors operation.

“It is a completely separate business hosted here at the Orchard. We always say we land one airplane at 6 and another one lifts off at 7:30.”

Timbers says both businesses are equally profitable.

Although Wiard’s employs only five staff members year-round, it re-hires 300 seasonal part-time workers each year—150 to man the Country Fair as well as another 150 for the Night Terrors side, including 115 monsters.

“The management for Night Terrors has been with us for years, and we have a very high rate of employees who come back year after year,” said Timbers.

“Many of them call and e-mail us all year with ideas for Night Terrors for the next year. We couldn’t do this without those employees who come back every year to bring this up from scratch, and we highly value them and their ideas.”

Timbers adds that if an idea doesn’t work, they make sure the person who came up with the idea understands why, so as not to inhibit creativity.

The haunted house market here is one of the most competitive markets in the U.S., says Timbers.

“There are more haunted houses per square mile in Michigan than most other states." In addition to being in a heavy market, Night Terrors has many repeat customers from year to year and needs to be refreshed each year.

“We are constantly adding things to Night Terrors and coming up with new and different scares,” says Timbers. “We do have new haunts this year but my guys would have my head if I told the secrets. The element of surprise is huge in our business.”

How scary is Night Terrors?

Let’s just say Timbers won’t go into Night Terrors anymore. “I am very much a Country Fair person—it’s too scary for me. I always have to appear in control, because that is the nature of my job. If mama’s scared, the whole farm is scared.”

Timbers stresses that none of this happens overnight: The seasonal business takes year-round planning.

“We have to have a well enough oiled machine that when we come off the ground we are working on all cylinders, and it looks to customers that we have been here all year,” she said.

Like many seasonal businesses, Timbers says they have a six-week period in which to generate revenue for the entire year.

Last year, customer numbers were tracking well until the rain hit in October.

“Rain hurts us. We can plan all year and be as ready as can be but if rains, they don’t come,” says Timbers.

Right now things are looking good for Wiard’s. “The apple and pumpkin crops look really good this year. The animals are healthy, the staff is ready. Everything is in place. Our projection is that looks like a good year, as long as the weather holds.”

In its 26th year of business, Wiard’s Country Fair opens Sat., Sept 18. Dates of operation for Night Terrors is Sept.25, October 1, 2, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30, 31. Check Wiard’s Web site for hours at and as the schedule may change.

Laura Blodgett is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to Ann Arbor Business Review.



Sun, Sep 19, 2010 : 2:07 a.m.

ive been to wiards and going again this year i even took my neighbor there last year and she cried i think they do good yeah too expensive but worth it im all the way from dearborn heights and theres not much out here and $30.00 is worth it for six haunt attractions ad wasems look boring peace. peace and wiard thanks for a better year last year and keep rocking.


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 12:13 p.m.

When my family had a cider press we shopped around for the best deal on three or four bushels of 'seconds'or 'drops'. Wiard's was ridiculously overpriced for apples that had a few dings, or had been on the ground a little while. I realize that they had to make a profit, but really. After a very reasonably priced orchard closed down, we went to Wasem's. They were glad to unload them, and we got delicious cider and donuts besides. IMO, Wiard's is out for the money and too commercial for my tastes. But to each his own.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 9 p.m.

There is Apple Charlies off 275, I think it is the exit after the airport turning right. Now that has some real donuts and cider. I love that place. The hayrides are easy on the children because they have a witch at the center of the hayride that tells easy ghost story. They have a haunted barn and it is owned completely by the family that runs it. Great place to go. Plus during the day or nite, you can watch them make donuts. During the day is apple cider. Of course the bees will be there too. There is a maze during the day near Lincoln Hi school. That maze is awesome. Word of caution though, if you bring your dog? You will find your way out faster then if you didn't. We did and they led us out of there very quickly. So, if you are looking something to do that is easy on the budget go here. We plan to. Now I need some greasy donuts and cider. As for Wiards? We have not been in years. The price has kept us away as well. I only do the hayrides because I love watching the monsters scare the dickens out of those who want to be scare. I love this time of year. Is it Halloween yet?

dading dont delete me bro

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 2:31 p.m.

@rolz g...hunh?!?!? imaginary customers? hunh? if you paid attention to my first post, "yes it's family fun and has been around for YEARS". lessee...wasem's is about (i repeat ABOUT) 5 miles away. there are orchards south of ypsilanti, between ypsilanti and plymouth....all local orchards that will gladly see your local dollars put into their pockets, just like wiards. i'm not a wiard's hater. i'm simply pointing out there are other (and in my opinion better) choices for your hard earned dollar. so before you hate on me, better read up boss. i am a firm believer in keeping your local dollar in the community. which is a relative term. is local ypsilanti, washtenaw county, southeast michigan, well you can decide. seems you already have your minds made up.

Rolz G

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 12:51 p.m.

Exactly; cant we all just get along and not pick apart the local businesses. I see this almost everytime there is apost on a local business on here people just want to rip them apart. cant everyone just agree no one place is for everyone. and, dading- someone may have a different opinion on donuts than you or what is fun event wise. lets stop the negativity. clearly people like all these orchards because they are all still around. they dont all have imaginary customers.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 12:48 p.m.

Its way crazy expensive but we keep paying it cause its the only place of its kind so close... having said that - its no where near worth the money - and they pay their staff peanuts


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 12:44 p.m.

so interesting to hear some of these comments on how expensive Wiard's is.... all a matter of perspective, I guess. I take my family every year, knowing that there's an admission fee. That said, there's like a ton of stuff to do for the kids & they have a blast! the place is clean, staff is friendly & service oriented, & it's just a great way to spend a fall day with my family. Now compare that to going out to the movies, or mini golf, plus snacks, & it's a great value & much better way (in my opinion)to spend the day. Yes, there are some things that cost extra, but it's stuff like face painting, gem mining, pony rides, etc, NOT the vast majority of activities! If you're looking for the sleepy cider mill, then no, the country fair is probably not for you & that's fine. Wiard's will always have my support!

Lori C

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 12:37 p.m.

Thanks Janet! I felt like I was alone with my first posting. I agree, WIARDS ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Assuming some wiard's employees are reading this - we support you!

Rolz G

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 12:28 p.m.

I've never been to Wards. Its been recommended many times but i have been to wasums and Im NOT a fan. If were using this as an honesty forum i was underwhelemed with wasums. Ill WILL be trying wiards this year despite these comments -based on referrals. not saying dont try wasums either. just remember a lot of people on these comment boards come with an agenda. if wiards is half as good as my friends have told me and this article sounds them im golden. if not ill keep looking

dading dont delete me bro

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 12:11 p.m.

wasem's has awesome FRESH donuts...they make'em in front of you. they're so fresh and so good they almost disappear as soon as they're made. oohhh, i'd better not say anymore, one of my 'secrets' is out.

Janet S

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 11:59 a.m.

Ok, so its not just me I wasnt going to comment but now that someone else took the time to speak up - wiards rocks. they have the best donuts and not to mention almost everyone i went to high school with at some point worked there. they are a huge help to the community with jobs and just keeping local business going. im assuming like any business they have to make money to stay around which explains a lot of smaller orcahrds closing every year because they dont charge enough for anything and then end up out of business. ill gladly pay to enjoy a whole day like any sort of county fair. and on weekdays i usually go to get my donuts and cider in the store and you dont have to worry about getting a parking spot or anything. and, since i go i know they dont pay for parking. that was like 10 years ago they did that. again wiards rocks!!!


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 11:56 a.m.

It is VERY, VERY expensive! Meaning it's competing with taking the family to a Michigan Football game, a concert, etc. That moves this into a different league....big business. No longer a quaint outing with the family. The free publicity is a nice. Someone over there is a master publicist. Every year at this time, like clockwork, they get a big editorial article. Saves on advertising, I guess.

Maris S

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 11:47 a.m.

Call me crazy -- I agree with Lori. I adore Wiard's and the staff is always so friendly. A lot of the smaller orchards are only good for an hour at most of activities. If you live on the other side of the state Crane's is good. Otherwise, Wiard's gets a THUMBS UP from me.

Lori C

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 11:40 a.m.

Personally, I completely understand different orchards for different folks. but, I happen to love Wiard's. I've gone just about every year since I was a kid and now my oldest is 10 and most of her great memories are at Wiard's. I would rather spend $10 spending an entire day there with hayride etc then take her to a 90 minute movie For what it's worth, I support Wiard's!!!


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 11:35 a.m.

I went out there for the first time two years ago with the kids and I don't think I will ever go back. It is not worth the money.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 11:18 a.m.

I agree with you JuliaAnnArb. Halloween should be about scary monsters and ghosts and what not, not fellow humans with medical conditions beyond their control.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 10:53 a.m.

I haven't been to Wiard's in years because of the cost issues that others in here have cited. I'm really glad that I live a short drive from Wasem's. If your after the basic orchard items of apples, donuts, and cider then that's the place.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 10:38 a.m.

I agree that there can be humor in mental illness, but these attractions are designed to be scary, not funny. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, "Violent stereotypes are inaccurate and offensive and the U.S. Surgeon General has determined that stigma imposed on people with mental illness in our popular culture often discourages people getting help when they need it." And the attraction isn't about serial killers, it is explicitly about an old (fictional) hospital for people with mental illness, which includes schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, etc. Would it be okay to have a scary cancer hospital attraction? Cancer scares many people, but I can't imagine that a poster of someone getting chemo or having a tumor surgically removed would pass muster.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 10:28 a.m.

Lighten up. I think "sick and demented" was to be taken as serial killer, not schizophrenia, dementia, etc. I get being sensitive to those that can't speak up for themselves but sometimes hypersensitive political correctness is worse than the thing that is being pursued. "Awakenings" is a hillarious movie....almost as funny as "A Beautiful Mind". "I Am Sam" and "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" had too many hot actors for the humor to be believable. Don't fall all of the way down to the bottom of the sar-chasm.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 9:57 a.m.

I agree that the place is a rip-off. $12/person (age 2+) to get in, even if you just want to pick apples, is ridiculous. The article also doesn't mention that one of the Night Terrors attractions is The Asylum. The Wiard's website has a phony story about the mental institution that used to be on the grounds, and that the "quirky" people were released, leaving only the "truly sick and demented". This proximity to mental illness apparently drove the director of the asylum mad. The only thing that's sick and demented is that people would profit from this sort of stigmatizing. People with mental illness are not terrifying creatures like ghosts and goblins, they are real members of our community who deserve respect. National Mental Health Week is October 3-9 and I would urge everyone to find another fall activity to enjoy.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 9:41 a.m.

It is unfortunate that does not provide free publicity to the numerous apple orchards that do not have an admission fee and where the actual focus is on apples and the other fruits and vegetables of the season. My family went to Wiard's once and I promised myself I would never go back. Charging admission and then charging additional fees for almost every event in the Orchard is just ridiculous.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 8:15 a.m.

Wyard's used to be a fun spot for the family to go to. Now, expect to spend at least $100 for a family to go. They not only jacked up the price for everything, but nickel and dime you the whole time there.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 7:42 a.m.

Do they still charge the "donation" to park? Yet if you don't donate, you can't park. Is that really a donation? We finally paid off our first and only visit to Wiards 13 years ago.;)


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 7:18 a.m.

We are lucky to be in a state with so many choices. Wiards is a great choice if the whole big expansive and expensive experience is what you and your family want. If you are looking for something homey and simple and at a reasonable price, any other orchard in the area will work better for you.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 6:53 a.m.

My family and I went to Wiard's last year, what a disappointment. It was so commercial and very expensive. I have a hard time believing that they make any of their own baked goods. We were planning to have donuts when we were there, but instead of smelling of fresh baked goods, the building they sold their food in smelled like musty mildew... yuck! I would love it if would put together a list of local orchards and corn mazes. I would love to take my son apple picking this year, but not at Wiards.

Jon Saalberg

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 6:37 a.m.

Every fall, our family goes to Wasem's. We appreciate the low-key, non-Disneyland aspect of that orchard. I guess if you want to pay admission to go to an orchard, Wiard's is the place.

dading dont delete me bro

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 5:41 a.m.

yes it's family fun and has been around for YEARS. however, it's getting to be expen$ive. look around folks, there are many local orchards w/many fun family entertaining events for a better $$ value.