When Legacy Barn opened in 2015 as the latest event venue in Howard County, the community took notice.
Since then, weddings and other parties have booked out a year in advance or more. So when the COVID-19 restrictions were implemented in mid-March, closing nonessential businesses and banning gatherings of more than 10, Colin Craig, owner of Legacy Barn, knew it would throw a wrench in many brides and grooms' plans to tie the knot at Leafy Lane Farm.
“It scared us pretty bad. We didn’t know what was happening, didn’t know where the end was,” said Craig. “And of course it takes so long to plan a wedding that it’s torture for them to make a decision on what to do.”
Initially, Craig said he and his staff tried to figure out a way to have the first wedding in March after the restrictions were implemented. There could only be 10 people, so staff would have to stay out of the barn, along with the caterers. But as they started counting more people – like the officiant, photographer, hairdressers, and makeup artists – they decided it wasn’t practical to go ahead with the wedding.
Some couples canceled altogether and had their weddings at their homes, and others rescheduled down the road, many in the fall and some even to 2021.
For the last seven weeks, the farm has been quiet, but Craig has stayed busy. He’s used the time to fix up the venue, landscape, and conduct maintenance and equipment inspections.
“It’s just been nerve-wracking. We’ve been staying busy cleaning everything and fixing everything up we can find to fix and straightening and organizing and finding something to do every day because we’re just stir crazy,” he said.
He’s also spent a lot of time at night, he said, on his computer educating himself on the virus, restrictions, and how to reopen Legacy Barn safely.
When Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a five-stage plan on May 1 to reopen Indiana, Craig said it was a relief to finally have some answers in regards to reopening. With dates set for when gatherings of certain sizes could resume, Craig is able to book events again – but they’re going to come with changes.
To allow for social distancing, he’s resetting the barn with small tables spaced out and providing a tent outside for overflow.
“We’re going through all the rules on how we can do this properly,” said Craig.
That means no buffets or drink stations where guests pour their own beverages. Masks are recommended in public, and Craig is tossing around ideas on how to incorporate masks to wedding themes. For instance, he said he's thought about having the brides’ families make masks with kissing lips on them or a picture of the bride and groom, for instance.
He’s also considering having a nurse on-site to check people’s temperatures. He said the idea with that wasn’t to challenge people but to give them peace of mind.
Due to the cancellations, Craig applied for and was awarded a $5,000 grant from Howard County as part of its $250,000 forgivable loan program for businesses in Howard County that were impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions.
The money, he said, will be helpful to recoup losses, continue to pay staff, and purchase the extra furniture that will be needed to maintain social distancing, including the overflow tent, as well as providing things like hand sanitizer and face masks to guests and potentially hiring an on-site nurse.
Looking forward, Craig is remaining positive. He said he’s excited to see the property return to the lively setting it had been for the past nearly five years.
“We can start planning again and start scheduling now that we know what the ground rules are, so we’re excited. In the state of Indiana, if we don’t have another blowup, I think we’ll be OK,” Craig said.