Big Red Barn Dance – Part 1

lee and katelynn wedding photo by chantal arseneau

As I mentioned in my Stonehaven Life 2012 Preview, Lee & Katelynn, a couple of young and energetic engineers, took on a mission last year that some of us (like me, and apparently Lee’s father) would have likely dismissed as “crazy”.

Today, Lee lays the groundwork of how they transformed a junk-filled barn into a fabulous venue for their wedding reception in part 1 of this 3-part series.

Enjoy! – Rick


Pitching the idea

In early February, as my fiancée and I were sorting through wedding details, I asked, “What if we held the reception in the barn?“, to which my fiancée responded with an incredulous “UGH” – but, before getting into the reasons behind that response, a bit of history is in order.

The barn in question was built on the family farm in 1916 by my great grandfather, Hazen Everett. Two post and beam barns were combined and rebuilt with a gambrel roof for hay storage, concrete cow stanchions, and knob and tube wiring.

Everett barn - built in 1916Everett farm apple orchard
My grandfather took over the farm in the 1960’s and had faithfully kept the barn in excellent condition. The exterior shingle siding was coated with a mixture of linseed oil and iron oxide (also known as rust, hence the red colour so prevalent with barns).

Cool reception

Back to the “UGH”.  It’s not that my fiancée was opposed to having a wedding reception in the barn; in fact, we had planned a square dance with live fiddling music as our reception dance, so having it in a barn was quite fitting and atmospheric.

Originally, our plan had been to rent a tent and set it up next to the orchard, similar to my sister’s wedding, which was also held on the family apple farm.
However, if you have ever priced out a 20×30 tent and dance floor you would know that it becomes a very significant portion of your wedding budget and can mean sacrificing things that are way more fun.

So why the disheartening response to my brilliant suggestion? Obviously the size, condition and suitability of the barn weren’t the problem. The problem was what was in the barn.

My grandfather focused on the apple orchard side of the farm, so the barn hadn’t been used as a cow barn for many decades. Over the years it was used to work on farm machinery, as a holding spot for scrap metal and as storage for miscellaneous objects as other buildings on the farm were emptied and re-purposed.

Trash and treasures

Over the half-century since the cows left, the barn had accumulated nearly 2,200 square feet of trash and treasures. To use the barn for our intended purpose, we would have to empty all of this area, a huge task that definitely required help.

katelynn looks at barn stuff decades of accumulated machinery and junk
After getting my grandfather’s blessing, we spoke with my father about cleaning out the barn. At first the suggestion of cleaning out the barn was thought to be crazy, but after sleeping on it for a couple nights my father started to see the potential in the idea.

Indoor space is always in short supply on a farm, but by cleaning this space we would get our reception area and my father would get a new space to use (as well as guaranteed cleaning help!).


Everything but the… no, wait… there it is!

Progress was slow at first. Unlike those TV shows, there was no big truck to fill and make everything disappear. Most of the stuff we were dealing with was construction material, old machinery and appliances, or metal to go to recycling. Over 3 months stuff slowly disappeared from the barn with help from friends and neighbours. As we cleaned up we came across many interesting items.

cast iron sink almost four feet longold wooden pung found in the barn
Left: A cast iron sink, about 4 feet long and perfect for our upcoming kitchen renovation. Right: A wooden pung – just needs a bit of repair, a willing horse and a driver with nerves of steel.
By this point it was the end of April, and our wedding was less than a month away. Most people would have had their reception area booked and decorations ready, but for us it was time for the next phase: making it presentable enough for a wedding reception!

Check out Big Red Barn Dance – Part 2.
Wedding photo: Chantal Arseneau

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