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This article was published 11/5/2019 (389 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WAWANESA — A fifth-generation farm couple is hoping to gauge community interest in preserving an iconic giant of the Prairies that has been in the family for decades.
Sheila and Jeff Elder will be hosting a salad-making event at their red Eaton’s barn on May 25, followed by the Maple Grove Market & Exposition on May 26.
"We’re hoping that lots of people will want to come and show off what they do … while showing off the building and having some fun," Sheila said.
The building that will house the events was originally built in 1913 and came into the Elder family’s possession around 1950. The barn was originally purchased from an Eaton’s catalogue by another family before the Elder family bought it.
The barn was originally located in a yard north of the site, but it was moved about 15 years ago. It is located about 4.5 kilometres west on PR 453 from the junction of PR 340 and 453, between Shilo and Wawanesa.
"The foundation was completely broken, and it was going to break the walls," Jeff said.
The family chose to move the building closer to the road, providing easier access for trucks.
They used the barn for grain storage up until about three years ago, when they stopped using the building because they worried about the damage created by the grain putting outward pressure on the walls.
"It puts a lot of pressure on the walls," Jeff said, adding one can see cracks on the foundation of the barn due to the weight of the grain.
"You see them, but they’re often saddle-backed or falling down," he said, explaining how Eaton’s barns that have been preserved this well are few and far between.
The family wants to continue to maintain the barn and potentially move it closer to their main farm, but it has proven expensive keeping the building and even more costly to move it.
To move the barn a little over a kilometre to the new area would cost approximately $100,000.
"It’s the iconic red barn, and we would love to save it if we could," Sheila said.
The family has put money into the the building’s preservation, but it becomes increasingly difficult to justify spending money on the barn because it is not actively used on the farm.
"Each generation, they do their little bit that helps prolong the life of the building," Sheila said.
Jeff’s father put a tin roof on the barn, which has helped protect the building, but one can still find wood that is rotting and needing replacing.
Sheila recently removed the original wood that spelled out "Maple Grove" and hand-painted a fresh version of the name on the building.
The family wants to see the building saved and preserved, however, Sheila said she does not know if the family can afford to do so.
The Elders are hoping to get funds together to save the building, or alternatively see someone else take over, renovate, restore and save the barn.
"(We want to) keep it alive and keep the history alive," Sheila said.
With so many different fundraisers in the surrounding communities, Sheila said, she felt that the barn could prove be a huge financial burden to the community.
She was inspired to host the events at the building in an effort to showcase the diamond in the rough while gauging people’s interest in preserving the barn.
"If there's no interest, it just doesn’t make sense to (move it)," Sheila said.
The Maple Grove Market & Exposition will also serve to showcase the unique skills and wares of their neighbours, be they farmers, cattle ranchers, metal workers or anything in between.
The ultimate plan is to potentially raise money for the preservation of the barn, or find out if someone else could make use of the building.
"I think I would feel really bad if I didn’t make some kind of an effort to see the opportunities or potential with what we could do for it or with it," Sheila said.
"We don’t mind sharing this building and showing people this. We just don’t want damage done to it."
The Build Your Own Salad Bowl event takes place May 25 at 10:30 a.m. and has 35 spots available. For more information, contact email@example.com.
The Maple Grove Market & Exposition takes place on May 26 from 1 to 5 p.m.
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