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Meet the Mother-Daughter Duo Behind The Barn

Could you tell me a little bit about the people “behind” The Barn?

The Barn Herschel is owned and operated by Mother-Daughter duo Mary and Paige Sawatzky. Mary is a retired Cosmetologist and widowed farmwife. She is very creative and has a talent for decorating. Mary loves to upcycle and that shows in The Barn’s reduce, reuse recycle doctrine. Mary also is a Marriage Commissioner and a life coach.

Paige has a background in public relations, event planning and advertising. She, like her mother, is very creative and has a passion for upcycling. She has an enthusiasm for holistic health and is a yoga instructor.

Why did you decide to renovate The Barn?

Renovations started on The Barn seven years ago after Paige moved back to the family farm after the death of her father and Mary’s husband. Mary had always dreamed of renovating the loft space of the barn as a space for her children, but it was a working barn since she and her husband were cattle and grain farmers. After her husband passed the structure ceased to be used in that capacity, so renovations began. What started as a place for Paige, and a distraction for our grief grew into a business.

The first event that we held was a neighbour’s celebration of life. We never planned on using the space for events. Our neighbour was a man of the country and so we agreed that a barn would be the perfect place to honor him. At that time, we didn’t even have washrooms, but the deceased family had an unused outhouse that they gifted us. After that, different people approached us asking to rent The Barn for different things such as weddings, wedding showers, family reunions, birthdays, health retreats, bands etc. As people rented The Barn for different events, we built things as they were needed.

Everything The Barn Herschel is today is something we thought would be fun to create or a necessity for an event that was held.

We decided to host events that we thought we would enjoy. We started our Witch’s Lair in 2016, followed by a Mother’s Day High Tea and Christmas Market in 2017.

Tell everyone about the renovation process, it can’t have been easy with an old building!

The renovations were a labour of love, and all the ideas sprang from Mary’s creative mind. It truly is an example of family, friends and community coming together to build something beautiful. If we needed help with moving or lifting something, help was just a phone call away. If something was out of our scope of knowledge, local contractors worked with us. To this day as we are building and adapting The Barn–we are still amazed by how quickly assistance shows up.

It’s not to say there weren’t days that we stood back covered in mud (and whatever else you find in a barn) and asked ourselves if we were crazy? But each step of the renovation process seemed magical and serendipitous. So many of our favourite days include people we love dearly taking time out of their day, laying the dance floor or nailing up the ceiling for example, and sharing a meal after.

At the end of it all, the renovations are something Mom and I did together. It has developed a bond between my mom and me that I am thankful for every day. My mom works so hard. I laugh when I reminisce of her building a dry creek bed in front of the barn. Digging big rocks out of the ground into a small tractor bucket, the sun in her hair and a smile on her face. She truly is a woman of strength and character. Most days she out works me, always has a witty joke at the end of her tongue, and wise words to ponder as we jump from task to task.

What types of events have you hosted in the past and what type are you planning in the future?

The beauty of our space is how versatile it is. There isn’t much that we haven’t hosted or created. We love to watch a bride walk down our deck to our pond surrounded by the ones that love her most, or as she dances with her dad in the part of the yard they have chosen for their reception. We like to create a safe place for grieving families and listen to their stories as they remember their loved ones’ lives. We enjoy sitting around one of our three firepits and someone brings out a guitar, listening and singing with a group of new friends.

We hold a Witch’s Lair every Halloween. We chose a theme and design a fantasy, always with a witch waiting for our guests at the end. We put up fake walls and create a labyrinth in The Barn, it’s different every year! Sometimes we utilize the yard. Last year we did the Wizard of Oz, the year before that Alice in Wonderland. We create a story of how they ended up in Herschel, Sk and play with our guests. We always have so many creative volunteers that join in and offer their time.  

We hold a Christmas Market on the last Sunday of November. Local small businesses bring their items and we decorate the barn. We put up our 12-foot tree. It’s a different group completely from the Witch’s Lair. Following that we usually host a few private Christmas Parties. One year we hosted a Murder Mystery for New Year’s Eve. There were 75 people. It was so much fun. There has been lots of interest in us doing that again.

On Valentines Day this year, we hosted a Cowboy Poetry. Again, a different demographic of people. Local cowboy artists played songs and recited their poetry.

On Mother’s Day we host a High Tea (5 years now). We request that our guests play dress up and wear a hat. We always bring in special tea. We usually have two sittings, that meal is catered. One year we brought in a musician to play and sing guitar, we also had a tea specialist that year. This year we had Fifth Avenue Jewellery, a tea leaf reader and foraged tea from Saskatchewan.

We have had headline bands come in from Saskatoon to professional pianists from Calgary. We have hosted workshops to yoga retreats. Family reunions, baby showers, birthday parties, grads, you name it we have hosted it, and if we haven’t, we will try it. We have lots of ideas; we work them around private functions. 

We are booked in June with private functions, we will soon release our August Event.

Do you have a favourite or most hilarious memory while at The Barn?

This is a hard question because it is hard to pick just one! We have had so many funny moments here at the barn. We always aim to be lighthearted and have fun. A lot of our favourite memories span over seven years and include so many people. Thousands of people have come through this property, and to think we never even planned it to be this way.

I could tell you about so many times we laughed so hard we could barely breathe, but what happens at The Barn stays at The Barn. We have shared millions of laughs and cried just as many tears. We aim to create a place where people feel safe and can be themselves. That alone is a recipe for hilarious memories. We encourage people to be silly and wear outrageous hats, costumes, outfits and wigs. We always have fur coats for people when they are cold. We just want people to enjoy their time while they are here, feel like it is their home and make memories. We aim to be the part of the conversation when people remember “that one time at The Barn Herschel…” I smile knowing we already are, and my heart dreams we will continue to be. 

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