The Inn at the Round Barn Farm – Waitsfield, Vermont, USA

You are probably not the first and surely won’t be the last to discover The Inn at the Round Barn Farm in Waitsfield, Vermont. Many publications have featured this gem of an inn. When you combine dazzling views, privacy and an historical round barn that hosts incredible cultural attractions, you have something that is not an easy combination to beat. You may even have the urge to keep it a secret, as we quickly discovered one beautiful June morning. This place is a world apart with its uncluttered landscape, serene ponds, flowing rivers, valleys, rolling hills, mountains, woods, greenery and wildlife. No wonder the pastoral splendor of the Mad River Valley is a source of pride, pleasure and inspiration for its residents and the primary reason why so many have been lured here to celebrate their weddings, anniversaries or other special occasions.

History of the Inn
The property dates back to 1810 when it commenced operations as a dairy farm with subsequent additions made to the buildings in 1825 and 1840. The unique round barn adjacent to the inn was built in 1910 by Clem Joslyn, and was used as a dairy barn until 1969. It is considered one of the Mad River Valley’s unique historic resources. There are only a few remaining round barns in Vermont; it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It is alleged that the idea of building a round barn emanated from the Shaker religious movement. The Shakers built their barns round so that “the devil couldn’t catch you in the corners". Perhaps they were onto something! After the farm and barn sat dormant for many years, Jack and Doreen Simko came on the scene in 1986, and purchased it from the Joslyns. Realizing its potential and economic return, they renovated and converted it into a beautiful event venue, and established the Green Mountain Cultural Center within its twelve-sided walls.

During our brief stay, we had the pleasure of attending one of the Green Mountain Opera Festival events, now in its second year. It was pure delight to listen and watch some remarkable young international opera singers perform within a setting that has incredible acoustics! We certainly couldn’t ask for anything more when we had beautiful music steps away from our room!

The barn has hosted concerts from the Adamant School, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, folk concerts from Elizabeth Von Trapp, annual photography exhibits, annual art shows and the Taste of the Valley event, known as the Mad River Valley’s premier culinary event. Jack and Doreen Simko no longer run the Inn. Their daughter, Anne Marie, who had been with her parents since the start, purchased the management company from them, added a partner and her catering company, Cooking from the Heart. She later bought out her partner and enlisted Tim Piper as her business associate. Anne Marie and Tim now operate three distinct businesses: the inn, the catering business and the non-profit cultural center – a unique synergetic combination!

If you want a “can do guy,” see Tim Piper, as we quickly learned. He was very gracious in filling us in with his encyclopedic knowledge pertaining to the Inn and the Mad River Valley. As a former Director of Sales at the Sugarbush Resort, Tim brings with him thirty years of expert marketing and social skills, as well as an abundance of enthusiasm that he has managed to proliferate among the Inn’s terrific staff that provides impeccable service. As one guest remarked on an Internet site, “the staff tickles your sense of humor, encourages you to let go, tempts you with warm cookies, and tells you all there is to know about the local area". That just about sums up what The Inn at the Round Barn Farm is all about!

Wedding Destination
The Inn and the barn serve as a fantastic groovy wedding destination; why scores of weddings are celebrated here throughout the year. Weather permitting, wedding ceremonies are frequently staged outside, surrounded by the magnificence of the Green Mountains overlooking a serene pond with the barn’s reflection as a backdrop. The reception that follows generally takes place in the three-level heated round barn that can accommodate up to two hundred guests.

The great advantage the Inn has over many other wedding destinations is that the barn can also serve as a back-up in the event of rain; no need to rent a costly tent. In-house catering is provided by the Inn’s own Cooking from the Heart under the direction of its long time chef, Charlie Menard, who has the experience and skills to put together a wide and varied menu.

Cooking from the Heart is a founding member of the Vermont Association of Wedding Professionals and the Vermont Fresh Network – partnering with local farmers and purveyors. What the Inn provides is a turn-key operation where couples don’t have to worry about hiring a wedding coordinator. The Inn’s staff works with local florists, musicians, photographers and wedding cake specialists. There even is an in-house Justice of the Peace to perform marriage ceremonies. The Inn’s wedding coordinator, Stacey Misenko, can arrange everything from “soup to nuts".

Let's say you're planning a winter wedding. Stacey can create the perfect ambiance; setting up a moonlight snowshoe tour. For the rehearsal dinner, she can have it in a cabin in the woods. In addition, she can take care of both pre- and post-ceremony activities in the area. Is this not something unique?

We noticed how attentive and courteous Stacey and staff were with a future bride and nervous groom. It appeared that whatever reservations or uncertainties the couple may have experienced, melted away when the Inn’s personnel took command and put everyone at ease, catering to their every whim – making it seem like fun. We were impressed with the Inn's organization when we visited the “wedding war room" – where the wedding crew meets every week. We noticed a blackboard filled with several important reminders such as the ordering from Burlington of seven kosher meals. We had to admit that the Inn’s crew had everything down pat.

Romantic Getaway
The Inn at the Round Barn Farm feels delightfully secluded, even though it is not very far from where all of the activities take place in the Mad River Valley. However, it is not just the location that makes the Inn stand out; it is the overall romantic ambiance of the rooms, as well as management’s sense of style that have made it a choice romantic destination. The attention to detail is exemplified by the warm and cozy rooms that are individually decorated with original pine flooring, rich wallpapers and decorative accents. All rooms come with private baths, cozy bathrobes, self controlled heating, air conditioning and stunning views. Six of the twelve rooms have gas fireplaces, telephones, and either a steam shower, or an oversized whirlpool tub.

Offbeat Dining
For offbeat dining, try the American Flatbread in Waitsfield – an all natural pizza baked in a wood-fired oven. One word of caution: the restaurant is only open on Friday and Saturday evenings. You must arrive early, otherwise, you will have to wait in line to savor their delicious pizzas – worth it. The rest of the week the American Flatbread is a wholesale factory baking and exporting its pizzas all over the USA. The restaurant’s affable owner, George Shenk, whom we had the pleasure of meeting, never in his wildest dreams could have believed that one day he would be firing up over a thousand pizzas a day! Listening to him tell us about his thirty-year-overnight-business-success was a treat in itself.

Norm and Lily Goldman are a husband and wife team who meld words with art focusing on romantic and wedding destinations. You can view more of their articles on BootsnAll and at Sketch and Travel.