STAPLES — Build it and they will come ... for some fun.

That was the thought process Derek and Jen Holst had when building Holst Acres in Staples 12 years ago. Holst Acres offers the popular fall family activities, such as a corn maze, hayrides and haunted houses; and also year-round laser tag and an event center for people to rent for birthday or graduation parties, wedding and baby showers, painting events or anything a person would need space to host. The couple also hosts seasonal events, such as a Santa’s workshop during the holidays.

“We started this because we wanted to have something fun for families to do in Staples,” Derek Holst said while standing in front of the barn style event center he built on a sunny mid-July day. Holst’s primary job is owner of a construction company called D.H.C of the Lakes Area.

“The first few years it was a little more family oriented,” Holst said of the hayrides and haunted houses. “But as time went on, people who came wanted us to get more serious about it and make it more scary. So then it was more teenager friendly. We didn't really have anything for families so then later on we added the laser tag and the corn maze for families to do for fun.”

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The Holsts have about 12 acres of land and have a few haunted houses and hayrides located in the woods for people to go through. It takes a person less than an hour to walk through.

Derek and Jen Holst wanted to start a business that would be fun for families in the Staples area. Holst Acres was born featuring parties in the main building, laser tag, a haunted trail during Halloween and Santa events at Christmas. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Derek and Jen Holst wanted to start a business that would be fun for families in the Staples area. Holst Acres was born featuring parties in the main building, laser tag, a haunted trail during Halloween and Santa events at Christmas. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

The Holsts said attendance over the years have gone up and down, with the lowest about 500-600 people to a high of 1,200 people for a season. Derek Holst said he likes to find out where customers are from and he said most are from within a 60 mile radius, though not a lot of local people.

Holst said he thinks the reason why the local people don’t come is because they think the corn mazes and haunted houses are the same every year. However, they change it up every year to make it more interesting.

“There are some things that are almost impossible to change, but we do change it every year,” Derek Holst said. “The haunted houses are more geared for the teenagers and up because it gets pretty scary. But the corn mazes are geared for the younger kids and the laser tag is for all ages.”

Derek Holst examines the laser tag vests participants wear while playing the game inside the main building at Holst Acres in Staples. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Derek Holst examines the laser tag vests participants wear while playing the game inside the main building at Holst Acres in Staples. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Laser tag — a recreational sport using infrared-emitting light guns to tag designation targets — is offered at the Holsts and the arena is located in the building that holds the event center. The arena consists of two levels with string lights all around, disco lights and music. Each game includes two teams of 10-12 people and is recommended for ages 6 and up.

A special course is set up at Holst Acres for laser tag. Participants can play laser tag while other family friendly activities are being hosted at the event center. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
A special course is set up at Holst Acres for laser tag. Participants can play laser tag while other family friendly activities are being hosted at the event center. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Holst Acres, like other entertainment businesses, had to shut its doors during the pandemic and the Holsts are hoping to be able to open in the fall, which is their busy time. During an interview in mid-July, rules and regulations were still up in the air, but they were able to rent out their event center for people to use while practicing social distancing and using of masks. The event center is equipped with a large overhead door to allow people to ease between indoors and outdoor use.

“We’ve never had set hours, it is by appointment or by reservations,” Derek Holst said. “People can give us a call to set up their reservations.”

A special party room at Holst Acres in Staples can be used to host parties and receptions. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
A special party room at Holst Acres in Staples can be used to host parties and receptions. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

The Holsts said if the state allows them to open their business fully this fall, they will be open minus the corn maze.

“I didn’t plant corn this year, just planted sweet corn this year to sell,” Derek Holst said. “There is a lot of time and effort that goes into that corn maze, and I was just afraid that (the corn maze) wasn't gonna happen and I hated to stick thousands of dollars into that corn maze. It's not so much putting in the corn. It's the time I put into cutting the maze and then you got to maintain the maze and it's just constant.”

A bird's eye look at the maze at Holst Acres. Submitted photo
A bird's eye look at the maze at Holst Acres. Submitted photo

The Holsts have a different maze design each year — it was shaped like a carved pumpkin in 2018. The Holsts have about 50 volunteers to help put together the haunted houses — people who are good at creating a scary experience for people.

The Holsts may host a fall festival at the property, depending on the COVID guidelines.

“Even if we’re not in a shutdown, people are still kind of skeptical about doing anything,” Derek Holst said.

The Holsts have another building next to the event center that will allow customers more freedom to social distance themselves when lines begin to get long for the haunted houses or hayrides. The building will include tables and snacks for people to enjoy.



Holst Acres in Staples is a family friendly event center, which hosts  parties, laser tag, haunted trails and Santa events at Christmas. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Holst Acres in Staples is a family friendly event center, which hosts parties, laser tag, haunted trails and Santa events at Christmas. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

  • Business: Holst Acres.

  • City: 28943 Todd Line Road, Staples.

  • Number of employees: Derek and Jen Holst and

Interesting Fact: “I wouldn’t say this is an interesting fact, but I have learned people don’t plan that far ahead. Maybe about two weeks and that’s it. And some are shorter like a day,” Derek Holst said.

JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at jennifer.kraus@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.