Some wild tales have come out of Phobia House's first 11 Halloweens: tours grinding to a halt because guests are too frightened to move, real tarantulas prowling the grounds, people fleeing to the parking lot to escape the house's murderous lunatics, only to find that the chainsaw-wielding madmen were willing to follow them there. The house takes on a new theme every year, but it's a safe bet that if the maniacal clowns and hanging murder victims aren't back this year, something equally disturbing will be, though it likely won't be Candyman causing a rip in the fabric of space-time by saying his own name three times in front of a mirror.
Engines start to roar, propellers spin, and a large parachute expands into the sky, carrying a light aircraft and its passengers toward the clouds. Silver Lining Aviation's certified instructors create adventures like this every day as they teach visitors to soar behind the controls of sport aircrafts such as powered parachutes, weight-shift trikes, and gyroplanes. Led by licensed FAA flight instructor Craig Ewing, Silver Lining's team takes prospective pilots on introductory flights that allow them to experience aircrafts such as the Airwolf 912 and nibble on different flavors of clouds. The aviation experts also sell sport aircrafts, which patiently wait onsite as customers work through custom ground- and flight-training programs. In most cases, the flight instructors prepare their pupils for aerial navigation in as little as two weeks. They also assist new pilots with replacement parts, provide 24/7 support, and cook oil soup to feed hungry aircraft.
For proof of how frightening Psycho Ward & Nightmares Haunted House truly is, you need only look at the chicken list. It keeps track of the number of people who couldn't make it through the two eerie indoor/outdoor attractions without high-tailing it to the nearest exit. There were 265 fraidy cats in 2012 alone, although that should come as no surprise, given the property's assortment of ghouls and maniacs.
Inside Psycho Ward, the experiments of the mad Dr. Floyd Cranston are eager to reconnect with other humans after years of unspeakable treatments and surgeries. Meanwhile, in the nearby Nightmares Haunted House, fears come to life in all forms, from demonic clowns to a radio that only plays John Tesh songs. Naturally, it's recommended that only guests 12 and older venture onto the haunted grounds.
For more than 10 years, Forest of Fear has been luring thrill-seekers into the woods to face 5 acres of nerve-testing frights. As they traverse the twisting, moonlit path, visitors encounter the forest's ghoulish inhabitants, including a devilish doctor, cannibalistic circus clowns, and a hallway filled with tragic brides stuck wearing off-white dresses, even though they'd ordered ivory. Guests set their own pace on the self-guided path, allowing them to stop along the way to get a better view of what’s lurking in the creepy cemetery or inside a school bus inhabited by forces more sinister than scholastic.
Though the haunted forest may scare, its overarching intent is help the community. All of the profits go to the Kentwood Jaycees, who use the money to sponsor community projects and help purchase food for families in need during the holidays. The staff is composed entirely of volunteers, and local Boy Scout troop 344 provides monster-themed concessions to warm chilled patrons as they await their turn to be terrorized.
After respective careers as a research scientist and an educator, Larry and Pam Satek were ready to settle into retirement. They anticipated relaxing on the plot of land purchased by Pam's great-grandfather in 1915—a verdant space that had matured from an apple orchard into an overgrown tangle, and which the Sateks turned into a commercial vineyard where other Indiana wineries bought their grapes. Now that they had escaped the daily grind, the Sateks' plan was to begin crafting their own wine. They did so with well-recognized aplomb, and soon, their "retirement business" was winning awards at the INDY International Wine Competition. In the past three years, almost 80% of their wines have medaled—the 2012 contest alone landed them 23 awards, including two Concordance Golds, which signify a unanimous decision by the judges. Their success is hardly surprising, though, if one looks at the descriptions of their wines. They deem their Old Vine red zinfandel "a searing of lightning and poetry," and liken the sweet Mango Mania to "sunshine in your glass."
The Sateks remain continually tapped into the community in an effort to share these wines, many of which are made from exclusively locally grown fruit. Their Twitter feed and Facebook page keep fans posted regarding new releases and suddenly sold-out varieties, and those hoping for a closer look can take a tour of the vineyard and bottling facilities. Additionally, special events such as dinners and pairing classes teach visitors how to expertly marry sips to bites without disappointing both of their families.
Jaden James Brewery isn't the Bonga family's first foray into the world of sippable fermentation. In the same space where they now create specialty beers, they've spent years crafting wines from the fruits of Michigan's bountiful vineyards and orchards.
"So many people come for the wine, but we often get one half of a couple who says, 'I like beer,'" says Bob Bonga. The brewery's current selection includes a cream ale to be savored between bites of pretzels, a Russian Imperial Stout, and an oatmeal porter that Bob characterizes as "wonderfully dark, with roasted tones of chocolate and coffee." The juice of apples harvested in northwest Grand Rapids goes into hard ciders.
The family also prepares a short list of snacks for visitors. In the future, the Bongas may grow their menu further by distilling their own liquors.