Northfield, Minn. – There will be no more “granny alerts” at Red Barn Farm weddings.
Those happened when, on a hot day in the old wedding barn, grandmother would break out a fan.
The granny alerts are gone — and so is the old barn. It’s been replaced by a new, 5,000-square-foot structure that’s heated, air-conditioned and full of custom touches that the old barn, for all its charm, lacked.
The owners, Patrick and Tammy Winter, had no plans to tear the old barn down. But Mother Nature did.
On Sept. 20 last year, as the Winter family huddled in a tiny storage room on the barn’s ground floor, a tornado destroyed the 104-year-old structure outside this college town some 40 miles southeast of the Twin Cities.
The twister took out their business, as well as the wedding barn, which included a popular outdoor pizza oven.
The Winters spent several days in shock, “wandering in circles,” as Patrick Winter put it. They picked debris out of their hair and clothing. They had no water and no power.
Then, faced with the choice of rebuilding or quitting, they shook off their sorrow and got to work.
They spent last fall and winter cleaning and lining up financing. In March, they began rebuilding the barn. They finished in June and opened for business in July.
With 30 weddings already on their fall schedule, the Winters have had little time to slow down. But the couple have found time to think about what the past year has brought, Patrick Winter said.
“It was a journey,” he said. “We’re finally learning to breathe again.
“One of the things I learned is that good things come from bad,” he said. “You hear that from people after disasters.
“I didn’t think I’d be one of those goofballs saying that, but it’s true. We’ve had so many good people help us.”
Friends and neighbors pitched in on cleanup and helped with everything from construction to interior design to landscaping.
Insurance on the old barn covered only about a fifth of its replacement, Winter said. But they were able to get a bank loan and also cashed in their retirement savings.
“We love it, so what’s the difference if [the retirement money] is here or sitting in the bank?” Winter said.
The new barn will handle up to 300 guests with room for a band and dancing. There are dressing rooms for the bride’s and groom’s parties. Salvaged wood from the old barn is incorporated in several areas of the new structure.
It’s been a year of almost uninterrupted work, and the Winter family — their daughter Hannah and son Max both work in the business — are all looking forward to a pause over the winter.
“In our minds, we have the barn of all barns,” Patrick Winter said. “We have all the amenities, but it’s still ma-and-pa run.”