SPARTA, Mich. — We are just a few hours away from the autumnal equinox! Many of us love this time of year, but one married couple turned that feeling into a full-time job.
“It's fun, you know," said Frank Stabile. "You'd wake up in the morning, like, 'What are we going to do today?'”
For Frank and his wife, Amy, that unknown is all they've known for the last five years.
"It's about creativity," Frank said. "If you get up and you feel creative and the creative juice is going ... like when you go to work, and — new start, and you feel that — we get that every year."
The two feel like they were dropped in the middle of a dream they have yet to wake up from since they were married in 2014.
“It feels like we’ve been together our whole lives," Frank said.
Before these two were holding hands on their 40-acre Fruit Ridge property in Sparta, they were holding on to the hope of retirement.
Amy worked in finance for about 15–16 years and Frank is a retired deputy.
They flirted with the idea of making a major life move, but first, they needed some sort of sign.
Turns out, that figure of speech became quite literal.
“There was a 'for sale' sign here," Frank said. "There's never a 'for sale' sign on Fruit Ridge.”
He added, “I called [Amy] right away, taking pictures of everything. We even snuck in here one night. There was nobody living here. We took pictures in front of the apple orchard like, 'We're gonna start doing this.' So we approached them and we met with the family and we told them our idea ... and they were like ... they loved it.”
The idea seemed straightforward.
“This was gonna be a little spooky corn maze for our retirement," Amy said.
Only problem was, they didn't know a thing about farming.
So, their new neighbors quickly became their new friends.
“We kind of thought it was for entertainment value," Frank said. "A couple 50-year-olds buying a farm and ... never farming before. But they took us under their wing and they literally taught us everything that we needed to know.”
In 2019, that creepy concept came to life as the Abandoned Acres Haunted Attraction.
“We have 8-year-olds that go through just fine," Frank said. "Then there's 21-year-olds that have to be walked out. They can't go through."
Amy said, "We'll get a call, 'Hey, these guys are crying and need to leave.'"
"You know, you feel for them, but it's like, 'Yes, I'm doing my job,'" Frank said.
The scariest part, though, had nothing to do with the haunted house.
“Well, that was the wettest year in recordable history," Amy said. “It would rain for two days straight during the week. It rained so much we couldn't open because our parking lot wasn't a parking lot. It was a field full of water.”
Frank said, "We thought everybody that came here had a horrible time because of the mud. They would post on our social media they were coming, but wear your muck boots. At this point, we don't know what muck boots are. I mean, that's how new we were to it. But they were coming back.”
Since then, they've added the Apple Valley Fun Farm, which includes an apple orchard and a five-acre corn maze, a pedal track, a pumpkin patch, a bounce house — the list goes on.
“We want to give the best experience possible," Frank said. "Honestly, that doesn't happen by a push of a button. It takes a lot of ... it takes a village.”
That village is made up of 120 actors and support staff.
“This is our family out here," Frank said.
Retirement looks different for the Stabiles, but they wouldn't want it any other way.
"Everybody wants to go somewhere else," Frank said. "We got heaven right behind us right here.”
The Apple Valley Fun Farm is open on weekends starting Sept. 23 through Oct. 29.
The Abandoned Acres Haunted Attraction is open select days from Sept. 22 through Halloween.
Click the links above to find a full breakdown of schedules, pricing and more.