Farms Deliver Taste & Feel of Colorado's Agricultural Heritage

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There is something ultraclassic and western about gathering in a restored barn or savoring a bite of a juicy steak or just-picked greens. We’ve found some exceptionally amazing barns and great farms and ranches around the state where groups can gather and perhaps lend a hand in the process.


Once used to store hay and antique cars and as a foundry in the basement, the Red Barn at Meadows at Marshdale in Evergreen was renovated to its present look in 2000 to accommodate gatherings of up to 125. Built in 1958, the wraparound balcony inside overlooks the main level Great Room, while large picture windows provide grand views. Downstairs, the bar area opens to a large room for dancing, buffets and other happenings. Outdoors, Mountainside Arbor ceremony site is near the barn, and Grandview Terrace is a cascading patio with a separate raised terrace for elevated seating or musicians and can hold up to 125.

In a scenic location just east of Gunnison, I Bar Ranch sits on 10 acres of hay meadow just off Tomichi Creek and below “W” Mountain, with the longtime white W celebrating the local Western State Colorado University. A converted hay barn with open sides and curtains that can be closed for inclement weather, the venue comes complete with stage, lighting, sound, picnic tables and kitchen prep area. Available from May through September, the 3,000-square-foot pavilion holds 515 people seated or 1,100 standing and is the venue for I Bar Ranch’s own bluegrass and country music concert series and Gunny Grass festival.

“You just know you’re going to have fun when you drive up to the open-sided barn that’s the I Bar Ranch concert stage,” says Pam Montgomery, executive director of the Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley. “We’ve partnered with the I Bar twice to present The Bellamy Brothers in benefit concerts. It’s a great place to build community!”

Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash first operated as a dairy before three brothers ran it both as a working ranch and dude ranch from 1946 until 1972. The property transformed into a Nordic skiing destination with few guest amenities, but that changed when Bob and Suzanne Fanch purchased the 6,000-acre property in 2001 and began transforming it into a full-service resort with a focus on sustainability. Now the property has two lodges, cabins, a bunkhouse, and activities for groups to enjoy, ranging from Nordic skiing and snowcat tours to zip lines and spa treatments. A meeting center has been built from two Civil War-era barns. Constructed in 2013, the new 50,000-squarefoot High Lonesome Lodge & Barn includes function space for groups of up to 350 people and more in a wine grotto and Axel’s Pavilion. Broad Axe Barn accommodates up to 160 banquet- style and has a 2,200-square-foot deck.

A group of 95 craft beer lovers, homebrewers and professional brewers gathered at Devil’s Thumb for the first ever Craft Beer & Brewing Brewers Retreat. “The staff at Devil’s Thumb were tremendously accommodating of some of the quirky needs associated with setting up homebrewing systems, and the Broad Axe Barn was the perfect blend of indoor/ outdoor, rustic and authentic, with enormous windows to bring in the majestic scenery,” says Laura Lodge, owner of Customized Craft Beer Programs, LLC, and planner for the gathering for Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine.

“Next year we would like to work with the team who handles the horses and cattle to see if we can complete the sustainability cycle by providing the spent grain as feed for the animals and substantially reduce (if not eliminate) the waste from the brewing process,” Lodge says.

Not only does Keystone Stables in Keystone offer horseback riding, pony rides, wagon dinners and other weekly events, the facility can be booked for private gatherings like a Wild West Night. On 60-minute scenic horsedrawn wagon rides through Soda Creek Valley to Keystone’s original homestead, wranglers share the area’s rich history before stopping for a cool beverage at the homestead. For wagon ride dinners, a 30-minute ride stops at the homestead for a tasty barbecue dinner, live music, horseshoes, cattle roping and a fire pit.

Raccoon Creek is a part of the original Grant Ranch that dates back to 1878, when James B. Grant, the third Colorado governor, purchased the Littleton property and used it as a gun and sporting club. Due to a recent enhancement project, a restored milking barn is now a wedding and event venue capable of hosting up to 200. Wooden beams, a large picture window and commercial kitchen are among the highlights at The Barn at Raccoon Creek. A large courtyard landscaped with Colorado wildflowers and plants also is available along with a ceremony site featuring rustic wooden benches.

Another historic barn with political connections, D-Barn in Longmont, previously known as the Dickens/Lashley Barn, was built around 1916 by Senator Theodore Lashley and used as a dairy barn for many years and more recently for storage. The structure was slated for demolition but instead was moved all in one piece to its present site on South Main Street. Designated a historic structure by Longmont and Boulder County, the barn has undergone Left an extensive renovation, can hold up to 200 with a completely open interior space and has a large deck. The grounds with the historic brick Dickens House and pergola also provide a picturesque backdrop for special events.

Farms & Ranches

The 90-acre Crooked Willow Farms is an amazing event venue as well as a private training and sales facility for hunter and jumper sport horses in Larkspur. Set in the upper level of a 1920s barn, Lola’s Loft holds up to 225 and boasts extensive charm from cathedral windows, circular stairs, original red oak floors, wagon wheel chandeliers and a wall of more than 75 pillar candles. The Carriage House Ballroom has beautiful, handcrafted double doors that open into a large space that holds up to 260. Another indoor option is the barrel-lined Wine Room that seats up to 40 with a changing of chairs or holds as many as 100 for a reception. For a breath of fresh air, utilize The Courtyard set in the center of the Carriage House, the adjacent Events Lawn or Goose Park in the center with a pond, stone picnic tables and loads of mature trees.

“Lola’s Loft was the perfect venue for our clients. It allows for great creativity with a beautiful picturesque Colorado backdrop and really showcased what a client might expect out of a Colorado venue,” says Kristin Grunewald, senior operations manager for RMC, a destination management company headquartered in Colorado.

Located 35 miles west of Colorado Springs in Lake George, M Lazy C ranch dates back to the early 1900s when the original owners harvested potatoes and various vegetables, and raised cattle and other livestock. The original structures include a log homestead, barn, blacksmith shop and individual cabins for the cowboys. Up to 350 can be hosted for corporate gatherings, which can include cowboy fun like roping, riding, penning cow/calf pairs and horseback riding. Custom rodeos, quick-draw competitions and a shooting range also can be part of the action.

Help gather eggs, feed chickens and milk goats at Avalanche Farm and Dairy in Paonia or just enjoy the beautiful backdrop on a tour or a special event. The farm hosts groups of at least 20 or more for breakfast, lunch or dinners on the farm, which can include cheese, goat sliders, goat cheese ice cream, pork and goat sausages, and pork tenderloin made from milk and meat raised on-site. Meals are served on the lawn or can be moved to the hay barn in case of rain. Company owner and cheese maker Wendy Mitchell runs the Goat Cheese Creamery in Basalt, where Avalanche cheeses are made, and she recently opened Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop in downtown Aspen.

In the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado, Zapata Ranch offers a balance of luxury and labor, mending fences in the morning and practicing yoga in the evening or horseback riding before a gourmet meal of fresh farm ingredients. This working 103,000-acre ranch with 200 cattle and 2,000 free-roaming bison borders the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is owned by the Nature Conservancy and operated by Ranchlands. The ranch has special weeks that feature a particular theme highlighting unique qualities of the ranch and related experiences, such as calf branding, horsemanship or photography workshops. Ranch cuisine often features ranch-raised bison and beef as well as locally grown produce, and groups also will appreciate that there are 15 guest rooms (23 total beds) and a private meeting room that seats 50.

Located in the southwestern corner of the state, the 450-acre James Ranch, approximately 10 miles north of downtown Durango, features picturesque pastures, grass-fed and finished cattle, grazing Jersey milk cows, a spruce tree nursery, and organic vegetable and flower gardens. The on-site Harvest Grill & Greens is the ultimate farm-to-table restaurant that serves the delicious products raised at the ranch and by local growers. There is a Farm Market that sells the goods and demonstrates the cheese-making process on certain days of the week. Groups can arrange for a narrated tour of the ranch or take a self-guided tour around the market property. In addition, the event tent with a wood-burning stove, outside picnic tables, lawn space, and an amphitheater that recently debuted summer theater productions and music can be utilized.

There are plenty more options than we could cover, but this should get your group started in looking at ways to kick up your boots or dig in at some of Colorado’s iconic places.

These picturesque Colorado venues are located along lakes and rivers.


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Since writing about amusing places as something different for groups to tap into for the summer issue of Colorado Meetings + Events, I’ve run across additions to the state’s fun quota. Colorado Springs’ is embracing the new 30,000-square-foot WhirlyBall, an entertainment center where the meeting space can be utilized and team-building incorporated into the program all in one location.