Dennis and Claire Taylor started the orchard 40 years ago, and added the Spooky Wagon Ride 10 years later after Dennis went to a farmer’s conference which discussed how small farms need something more to survive, such as agrotourism. Dennis attended this conference with Mark Saunders, from Saunders Farm on the west end of Ottawa, creating a friendly rivalry between the two Halloween attractions.
One year ago, Mathew Kelly bought Cannamore Orchard, with his wife Victoria Bakker, after working there for 30 years.
“I came and went” said Kelly. “I went off to university, went off to live in Kitchener for a few years but I would always come back because I loved the work. The last five to 10 years, Dennis would always ask me ‘So, Mat, when are you buying the orchard?’ and my answer had been ‘When you start paying me more.’”
In its first year, the Acres of Terror had only the Spooky Wagon Ride.
“I was a tractor driver the very first year,” said Kelly. “We threw some bales of straw on a wagon and drove it around the orchard.”
The actors were all volunteers from the North Dundas High School doing fundraising.
“There was probably about 14 to 20 people in the field on a night,” said Kelly. “That year, I think there was about 300 people coming through. I remember Dennis talking about how they were ecstatic, they didn’t think that many people would be interested.”
Since 1992, things have changed a lot for Acres of Terror. The haunted house was the first thing to be added on to the Halloween activity, followed shortly by the fog maze and the spooky village.
The number of actors and visitors has also grown considerably.
“Last year we had about 9000 people go through,” said Kelly.
Most the 90 or so actors are paid. Those that aren’t paid are students fundraising for École secondaire catholique Embrun, which receives $2.50 from every ticket sold to help with expenses for field trips for grades 7 and 8 students.
Acres of Terror is open until every night from Monday to Saturday, and during the day of Saturday and Sunday October 30. Time slots must be booked online.