When Dale Fier named his repurposed farmstead south of Taunton, Minn. the “Heritage Event Center,” it is not a name he pulled out of the air because it has a nice ring. He intended it to be descriptive of his retirement venture.
“I try to incorporate as much history as possible into the place,” Fier said.
He has plenty of history to work with.
“The best I can decipher, we have it narrowed down to 1886 when my great-great-grandparents first came and lived in a soddy down by the valley.”
They stayed, and so did succeeding generations until Dale and his siblings were the latest generation to grow up on what was in his childhood a dairy farm. One brother stayed on to farm with their dad, but the rest moved on to other careers. Dale worked for large corporations, enabling him to move from place to place when his wife, Heidi, a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, was transferred. His last years before retirement in 2014 were as a program manager with IBM.
“I always told my Dad that when you’re ready to sell, I’m ready to buy, because I want to retire here,” Fier said.
That time came in 2003, and he started cleaning and fixing up. Fier built one new building on an old foundation. It was intended as a man cave and vehicle storage, but turned into a family gathering spot. Fier systematically put new siding on the other buildings he intended to keep. One of those buildings was the barn, which he started straightening in 2005.
“It was a promise to my dad that I would never let that old historic barn collapse,” Fier said. “That was the first building built on the place.”
His great-great-grandparents live in that barn with the animals for a year before they moved into a shanty while the house was being built. What Fier didn’t realize was that the barn was going to give a whole new look to his retirement.
Since he was able to work at his job remotely, he would commute back and forth every other weekend between the farm and their Colorado Springs home. While he was home on one of those commutes … on a rainy April weekend, a couple drove in. They told him, “You don’t know who we are but we’ve been looking for a barn to get married in. It’s been a dream my whole life.”
He told them the barn looked nice on the outside, but not so good on the inside. They decided if stuff was swept aside, it would work. He and a good friend spent the summer getting the barn in shape to host a November wedding.
“It turned out pretty spectacular,” Fier said. “The word got out that I was fixing up this barn. Then I had more people ask about it.”
He liked the idea of a new use for the barn, but there was serious work to be done. The November wedding had been chilly, and summers would be hot. He sought a quote on heating and air conditioning the barn. It was over $10,000. As the contractor drove away, Fier went in the house and sat down. The phone rang. It was his boss. Since Fier’s last projects had gone so well and under budget, the company was giving him a bonus. It equaled the amount he had just been quoted. That seemed more than a coincidence.
“You have a feeling you’re on the right track,” said Fier. “That was a pretty strong indicator that there was something more for me to do than fix the place up and retire.”
The Fier Family Farm became a place for other families to have a memorable experience.
Activity at the Heritage Event Center has grown without any paid advertising. After he and his wife moved back to the farm in 2014, he has been able to devote all his time to the Center. It has hosted reunions, receptions, showers, fundraisers, and community events, but weddings predominate.
For indoor wedding ceremonies, the barn loft is the chapel. String lights hang from the rafters, and down front is a lighted cross formed from the first barbed wire used on the farm. Single seed corn planters function as flower receptacles hanging on the posts. The main floor has tables and benches for a reception, sitting on either side of the wooden frames from the milking stanchions.
The historic barn may be the central attraction, but folks find holding events on a farm appealing and activity is not confined to the barn. There is also an outdoor chapel among the trees. The metal cross at the front is from a family crypt in Denmark. The former “man cave” building serves as the dance floor or the center of other activity. Depending on the event, there is a bar and serving area on a concrete feedlot, and seating around outdoor fires. Groups arranging for a hayride have their choice among three tractors: Farmall, John Deere or a little Ford. “Dad was non-denominational with machinery,” Fier smiled.
Fier had thought he would restore their old machinery, but instead is creating an outdoor machinery museum to walk through. When people heard he collected old machinery, they donated theirs rather than sell it for scrap iron.
The pandemic interrupted activity in 2020. He went from 27 booked events to two. He and a couple full-time employees utilized the time to complete projects that would have been harder if fully booked. But 2021 is bouncing back big.
“I have weddings scheduled through Christmas,” he said.
Fier never trained to be an event coordinator, but he learned needed skills in his career.
“This is probably equally as challenging as when I worked full time; but there is nothing anyone can throw at me that I haven’t dealt with as a challenge in my career. I learned about working with people and problem solving.”
Both are very helpful when a crisis develops, especially in such a memorable event as a wedding.
Dale Fier doesn’t think this was just a good idea he had. There is this sense that God has used unexpected incidents and turns of events to guide him in the direction he has gone. All the support from family and friends seems to confirm that he has chosen the right track. It isn’t all that profitable at this point, as he tries to keep it affordable for the community. He said his wife teases him that he has to quit paying people to get married in the barn.
Still, the Heritage Event Center seems to him a much better use of his time than just sitting around on his boyhood farm (not that he seems like a person who would ever be just sitting around). The old machinery, the rustic adornments, the original buildings fixed up and saved, it all puts heritage into this rural event center.
“I thank God that my mom and dad had the foresight to struggle to keep it in the family,” Fier said. And he has found a way to keep the heritage alive.
Heritage Event Center is located at 3621 County Highway 8, Taunton, Minn. More information can be found by searching for Heritage Event Center or Dale Fier on Facebook. Dale can be reached by phone at (719) 393-5168.