Putting in the work… Angela Halvorsen & Allen Smith

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

It takes a lot of work to put together a dream wedding, and that goes extra if that dream involves a building that was full of horses only weeks before the big day.

Angela Halvorsen-Smith and her husband Allan certainly put the work in when it came time for their wedding, held last September in the horse barn at the Emo Fairgrounds. As someone who has long been involved in the world of horses, Angela said that when it came time to look for a location for their wedding, she and her husband settled on the fairgrounds rather quickly.

“When we got engaged and started talking about a venue, I had said it would be really cool to get married at the fairgrounds,” Halvorsen-Smith said.

“They have this building there, they call it the quonset building, it’s one of the beef barns that they have during the fair. Initially that’s kind of where I had thought [to hold the ceremony] because it’s a big beautiful old barn and inside it’s all wooden. It’s just very unique.”

However, once the pair had ventured down to the fairgrounds to inspect the building, it was quickly determined that, for the size of wedding they were hoping to have, the quonset building just wasn’t going to be big enough. After coming to that conclusion, Halvorsen-Smith said they decided to check out another of the buildings on site, owing to some special shared history.

“My other thought was to have it in the horse barn,” she said.

“A little bit of history with the fairgrounds and the horse barn is that my mom was very instrumental in getting that barn built. She was on the fair board for many years as well, and there was a barn there that years ago had burned down and then as they started looking at getting it replaced, she jumped on board and was very instrumental in taking on that project and getting that barn built.”

Of course, choosing a rather active barn for your wedding carries some extra considerations. Halvorsen-Smith, having long been associated with the fall fair, said she knew that once the fair was over, the horse barn was cleaned out, the stalls torn down, and the building used as winter storage for boats sold through Tompkins. When they checked the barn out as a prospective wedding venue for the first time, the stalls were already down and a few boats where in place, but it was empty enough to help them make a final decision.

“When we walked in we both kind of took a moment and looked around, and then we looked at each other and we both just said, ‘no, this is definitely where we have to get married.’ I don’t know if it was just the knowledge of the fact my mom was an instrument in getting the building put up or if it was horses which have been a big part of my life, all together we knew right then and there it was going to be our venue. We just had to figure out how to make it happen.”

“How to make it happen” started by placing a phone call to Tompkins to ask if they might help out with removing the stalls a bit earlier in the timeline once the 2023 Fair was over, which Halvorsen-Smith said they agreed to. After that, it came down to plenty of elbow grease and a hefty load of cleaning supplies.

“Generally what happens is, when you have these stalls up you put fresh shavings down on the ground and then any droppings from the horses will get absorbed,” Halvorsen-Smith explained.

“Of course, some of it soaks down onto the cement. So first of all we had to get all the little bits of shaving that were left over. Even though the stalls were completely cleaned out, the corners get little bits of shaving. So we asked a friend to go in with one of those leaf blowers you wear as a backpack, and he blew all the shavings and dirt off the floor, and then my husband and I went in with pressure washers, scrub brushes and Javex and we spent a few days in there cleaning the floors as best we could. We also noticed some of the stalls had a bit of manure just from wear and tear, so we actually cleaned all the stall fronts that we could and scrubbed them down.”

Halvorsen-Smith’s wedding marked the first time anyone had used the horse barn for a wedding ceremony, and she joked that it might also mark the last time anyone does, simply owing to the amount of cleaning they did to get the barn ready for the big day.

“It was a lot of work to get it ready,” she laughed.

Once the deep cleaning was done, the venue was left to dry, and then chairs and decorations were brought in, and while she said the barn still had a little bit of that signature barn smell left behind, it added to the authenticity of their dream day turned reality.

“It was really special,” she said of the wedding day itself.

“The whole feel of it just felt right. It was a bit emotional because weddings always are, and we just felt like it was the right choice for us. It just made sense. And the whole atmosphere was great. Everybody seemed to really enjoy the ceremony.”

The remainder of the wedding day was filled up with taking photos and the reception, which was also on the fair grounds upstairs in the Emo Arena, along with dinner and lawn games for guests, helping to provide a convenient and memorable location for the entire day’s festivities.

When it comes down to having that dream wedding, Halvorsen-Smith said it’s all about working to make your big day your own.

“Just make it your own,” she said.

“Not everybody is going to have the same kind of venue or the same colours, but pick what you like and really make it your own and have something that’s unique to you. Everybody is different, so make it your own and just go with it and it’ll be perfect. All in all, it was perfect. The day was great, and the people that were there were our friends and family and they love us and that’s the main part, is being surrounded by those folks.”

Halvorsen-Smith also shared some advice that she said helped to really put a cap on the perfect wedding day.

“There was piece of advice I read online that I’d like to share, and that was to always stay with your spouse, whether that’s husband, wife, whatever,” she said.

“Spend the whole day with them. It’s very easy to get pulled away, you know, your friends are there, your family’s there, but make sure that whatever you do, you bring that spouse with you to do that thing. That way you both get to experience the entire day and you both get to enjoy it as a couple. It just made the day that much more special.”