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Barn enters new hayday

Rural wedding venue opens for business

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 10/1/2017 10:00 AM

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Joanne Jones, venue manager at Whitetail Meadow, stands on the balcony of the honeymoon suite in the venue’s cottage, overlooking the grounds and 6,300 sq-ft. renovated barn. The venue hosts its first event this Saturday, ahead of an open house on Nov. 18.

JORDAN ROSS | THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

Joanne Jones, venue manager at Whitetail Meadow, stands on the balcony of the honeymoon suite in the venue’s cottage, overlooking the grounds and 6,300 sq-ft. renovated barn. The venue hosts its first event this Saturday, ahead of an open house on Nov. 18.

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Even a carefully planned wedding day can be hectic, but the manager of a new wedding and event venue west of Niverville hopes the rural property can inject some serenity into busy modern life.

"It really is a tranquil place," said Joanne Jones, venue manager at Whitetail Meadow, a renovated barn and cottage that sit on a 26-acre parcel of land at the corner of Provincial Road 200 and Provincial Road 311.

On Saturday, Whitetail Meadow hosted its first event, marking a nine-year journey from conception to completion for owners David and Lori Neufeld of Niverville.

Jones explained the project began in the spring of 2008, when the Neufelds (her brother and sister-in-law) moved an aging barn from the northwest corner of Niverville to its current site along the highway. David Neufeld said he felt compelled to save the impressive structure, which was slated for demolition as it stood in the way of a new housing development.

Just what to do with the barn, however, was not immediately apparent. According to Jones, the Neufelds kicked around several ideas, including a greenhouse and a restaurant, before settling on a wedding and event venue.

"David, more than anyone, had a vision for it," Jones recalled.

But subdividing the title from the 88-acre parcel across the highway proved time-consuming, Neufeld said. Preliminary landscaping work commenced four or five years ago, but it wasn’t until this past spring, when more than $1 million in barn renovation work got underway, that the site’s transformation became apparent to curious passersby.

Wings were added on either side to accommodate washrooms, a kitchen, and space for up to 300 guests. Built around 1945, the barn now has two storeys, but originally had three, Jones explained.

While the finished product bears little resemblance to its former self—modern building codes necessitated a thorough overhaul, Jones said—small touches were preserved or repurposed whenever possible. Exposed ceiling joists and a feature wall made of weathered barn wood give guests a sense of the structure’s history. More barn boards found new life as bridges, and new windows were set in the original location.

Flood protection also had to be considered, given the property’s placement along the Red River. Jones said the site has been built well above the 1997 flood level.

The interior—all 6,300 square feet of it—now features whitewashed walls and pine plank flooring. In addition to weddings, Jones hopes the venue attracts corporate Christmas parties, retirement functions, teambuilding exercises, and other special events.

The adjacent cottage, built around the same time as the barn, came from the southeast corner of Steinbach in early 2016. The building was gutted and renovated, and a new garage was added. It is now intended for wedding party preparations and honeymooning couples, and will be listed on Airbnb when not in use.

The property has a pond and a large, treed back field that Jones said could be used for white-tent functions, as well as a putting green, horseshoes pit, and cross-country skiing paths. To landscape the area around the barn and cottage, Jones drew on her professional background as a greenhouse operator. She formerly ran Growing Pleasures Greenhouse, and has managed special events at Pineridge Hollow near Birds Hill Provincial Park.

"We want to keep it as natural as we can," she said of Whitetail Meadow’s look.

Tall grasses and wildflowers were used, and deer sometimes leave prints around the pond. Next year, the Neufelds hope to plant row crops in the field to the north to add more visual interest to the grounds.

Located just six kilometres west of the Niverville Heritage Centre and its popular atrium, and in a region that has seen numerous wedding barns crop up over the past decade, Whitetail Meadow enters a competitive market.

But Jones noted venue will be open year-round, and caters to those who are looking for an all-day event centre on an uncrowded rural property that is also close to the Perimeter Highway. The southeast region’s young and growing population will also likely mean a growing demand for rentable spaces in the future.

Whitetail Meadow will hold an open house on Nov. 18. Further details on the venue can be found at whitetailmeadow.ca.

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