Beyond the Barn Dance
December 2, 2020
Written By Jason Jenkins
For centuries, the barn was the space for celebrating. No matter the occasion — whether it be a birthday, wedding, holiday or even the raising of the barn itself — this place for housing crops and livestock would transform for communal gathering, making way for dancing and merriment.
Somewhere along the way, though, the barn lost its allure, and true barn dances faded away. Modern times demanded modern places to gather, and this simple space was forgotten. However, in recent years, a rustic revival has taken place. The barn is back.
For the past six years, Jamie and Derek Bryant have welcomed guests to Blue Bell Farm, an event venue that sits just south of Fayette, Mo., in Howard County. Blue Bell isn’t a farm in name alone. Owned by the family for more than 200 years across seven generations, the 350-acre farm today produces grass-fed beef.
At the center of the event space is Blue Bell’s barn. Completed in 2014, the structure is the site for year-round weddings, corporate retreats and other private events.
“We had a lovely old hay barn, some say one of the oldest in the county, but it just wasn’t able to be retrofitted for our purposes,” Jamie explains. “So, we took it down piece by piece and reused a lot of the wood in our new timber-framed barn.”
The whitewashed interior, accentuated with elegant rope chandeliers, is large enough to seat 150 guests and plays host to as many as 20 weddings and other events every year. While there is loft space — a barn staple — the venue also is equipped with other amenities that would make barns of the past envious, including a bar, kitchen and restrooms.
Beyond the physical space and pastoral setting, the Bryants offer catering that features locally sourced food as well as wedding planning and design services.
“The ultimate goal is to provide a wonderful experience for our guests from start to finish,” Jamie adds.
Another fixture at Blue Bell is the Farm Dinner series, a collaboration between the venue and professional chefs to provide distinct dining experiences with local ingredients, including the farm’s grass-fed beef.
“We did the cooking for our first couple of events but then quickly realized that we were in over our heads,” Jamie says with a laugh. “So, we started partnering with chefs from Columbia, St. Louis and elsewhere, and we handled the design and coordination components.”
Each dinner features a menu inspired by a unique concept or theme. The number of guests is dictated by the location, whether inside the barn, down by the pond or even in the greenhouse.
“I think it allows the chefs to have the creative freedom to experiment with new ideas and techniques outside of their kitchens,” Jamie says. “We love collaborating with them on their ideas.”
Originally trained as an interior designer, Jamie says she sees similarities between design and event planning. Both require coordination, and she loves when everything comes together, especially weddings.
“A lot of times, we book our weddings 12 to 18 months out. You establish a relationship with the couple and get to know their hopes and dreams for their big day,” Jamie says. “You go on the journey with them, and when their special day arrives, you see the first dance and you see the joy that the family experiences. When I get a sweet note from a bride saying that her wedding was everything she dreamed it would be, that’s my favorite part.”