By Rosemary K. Otzman
David Boughan said he wants to put in a Haunted Hayrides of Fright event at his property at 15851 Martinsville Road in an attempt to bring something fun and good to the community and to save his farm so he can turn it over to his children in the future.
Boughan told the Van Buren Township Planning Commission at its meeting on July 9 that his family has raised Christmas trees on the property since 1942. He said Christmas tree sales have fallen, so he is growing pumpkins.
Boughan said he started planting Christmas trees, but then had a major stroke the first year. He lost 3 ½ years of planting.
“I’m disabled and handicapped,” he said.
Boughan said he has a friend who is a retired ICE officer who trained his safety people and is present whenever he is open.
“I’m just trying to bring something fun and good to the community,” Boughan said. “I have a dream it could be expanded to the township… Sometime like a Strawberry Festival for the township because I think the township could benefit from it.”
Boughan had to come to the township for approval because he wants to hold it beyond the two consecutive weekends allowed as a right in the zoning ordinance for temporary land use.
The property is located on the east side of Martinsville Road between Hull and Fret roads.
He and his wife explained how the hayrides would work and how the drive in goes by the pumpkin patch, which closes at dusk.
He showed the route of the 20-minute hayride which uses fire lanes from his grandparents’ tree farm. He said they lanes are solid and don’t get soupy. He said he has cleared all but 7 ½ acres and wanted to go back to Christmas tree farming.
They tried the hayrides last year and were going to do a corn maze this year but waited too late this year. Next year they plan to do it.
“We want to try the hayride and the reason is to get people to come out and pick pumpkins,” he said.
He said last year some people visiting from Indianapolis came out and then they went home and brought four other families with them for the hayride.
Boughan said there are 25-30 people who work at the hayride. “Some are volunteers and some I actually pay,” he said.
He figures he could service 2,500 people a night.
“I want a family event. I don’t’ want it scary and gorish,” he said, adding he thinks some rides go too far.
“Sounds like a lot of fun,” said Commission chairwoman Carol Thompson.
“No smoking or drinking is permitted,” he said.
Boughan said they had a wonderful year last year and their biggest night was 2,300 people.
Jerry Ruble said he owns nine acres north of Boughan’s place and he was the volunteer tractor driver last year and enjoyed the event. He said he doesn’t go for haunted stuff, but he drove in circles and watched the people have fun.
“This is a young family trying to cut a living out of their lives in your township,” said Ruble. “He’s handicapped and keep on giving … If you can help him, please do.”
Boughan was asked to tell about the noise.
“As to the noise, I added 20% human, 80% scare, and 0% boredom,” Boughan began. He said he dressed people up as moonshiners and they would call people on the wagons “revenuers” and shoot off shotguns that only shoot blanks at them.
Then there was a clown area with a cover to give the illusion of a big top tent. Dummies would come to life and there is a chain saw.
“One of my biggest hits,” he said.
Boughan said years ago they put on a hayride at the family farm and he was put in charge. He said the best way to scare people is to change what’s going on in their minds.
He said he turns his workers into actors and tries to give people an amusement and an act.
“Some rides overdo it,” he said. “People get tired of the gore.”
He said there were people who came out from Detroit who only knew the city. They would bring their picnic baskets and eat and stay all day.
“I had to run them off because after dark they got lost,” Boughan said.
He said the farm’s Boughan’s hayride of Fright website is offline right now but Officer Burns is helping with it and it should be on line again shortly.
The commission will vote on Boughan’s plans at its next meeting July 23.
Atchinson’s Used Car Dealership
In other business at the 44-minute meeting, the commission approved the final site plan for the Atchinson Used Car Dealership upgrade at 9700 Belleville Road.
Wayde Hoppe gave some last-minute changes to the plans and said they were happy to learn that the brick used on the Atchinson new car dealership is still being made and they will be able to get it for the used car building so everything matches.
He said all the glazing and doors will be new on the used car building and everything will match the original Atchinson building.
By Rosemary K. Otzman