Students experience country culture in local barns
October 28, 2019
Since 1991, herds of college students have gathered in barns just outside of the University for a night full of country music.
From Greek organizations and RSOs to local weddings and birthday parties, Farm Lake gives members of this community an opportunity to spend their night listening to music with a southern twang and dancing.
For the past 28 years, Farm Lake hasn’t operated as a farm —its only business comes from the barn dances it hosts in its two locations. The remaining land is leased out by David Dessen, who has been the owner of the land and barns since September when his mother, Loretta Dessen, passed away.
The barns host a little more than 50 dances during the fall semester and 25-30 during the spring semester. Since the introduction of barn dances, the barns have hosted close to a quarter of a million attendees.
Given the large number of students who participate in the dances and the events’ popularity, keeping everyone safe becomes a top priority due to the presence of alcohol.
To keep everyone from students, drivers and workers safe, David and his employees list off the barn’s guidelines and rules to each group on the bus before it enters the barn.
“If you get 200 to 300 college-aged kids here, some are drinking a lot, you’re gonna have a few that are a little hard to deal with,” David said. “For the most part, better than 95% of the kids are just fine.”
During the dances, David has five workers running security while he floats back and forth between barns, monitoring the roads so buses can pick up and drop atendees off safely.
Since 2008, Starr Limousines has been employed by Greek organizations and RSOs for transportation to and from these barn dances. H.D. Brown, president of Starr Limousines, averages around four barn dance trips per week.
Driving a bus full of 65 college-aged kids can be more than a handful for these drivers. Similar to Farm Lake, Starr Limousines implements strict rules for students on the ride.
“We like to keep control on the bus,” Brown said. “That’s both for the student’s safety and the driver’s safety and general public perception as well.”
Brown notes there have been incidents in which students have been removed from the bus for endangering others. This might happen if a fight occurs on the bus. In this instance, Brown says the driver will find a safe, well-lit area, like a gas station, and remove the passenger from the bus.
There have been instances where the police have been involved or passengers have been removed, but these are a very rare occurrence.
A majority of the company’s business comes from Greek organizations looking to schedule an event at a barn. Very rarely does Brown receive calls from organizations that haven’t used its services before.
As a driver, Brown picks up the students at their respective organizations or chapter houses and brings them back at the end of the night.
“There are a few groups that are typically more troublesome than others, but historically always the one particular house is the trouble house,” Brown said.
However, Brown finds a majority of the time, students are able to handle themselves responsibly and accordingly.
“More times than none, at least two-thirds of the kids on each trip will thank the driver,” Brown said.
Emma Potempa, sophomore in ACES, has been to multiple barn dances as a part of her sorority, Delta Delta Delta.
Delta Delta Delta attends one barn dance a year as a house during the fall semester.
“I see it as a tradition,” Potempa said. “For Greek life, so many houses have been doing it for a good amount of time that it’s something that everyone continues to want to do.”
Potempa remembers how older members of the house would rave about one specific part of the night: the late Loretta’s kind words and tasty Chex-Mix. Through this, Potempa believes the barn dances give her house an opportunity unmatched at any other University.
“It’s a positive event that brings us all together,” Potempa said. “It makes us appreciate where we go to school and the community around us.”
David is aware of the positive impact the barns and services of the workers have on the students and believes that while participating in this special piece of University culture, it is important to appreciate and give thanks to the people on campus that give students such great opportunities throughout their college experience.
“I would say a lot of the students after they graduate, (the barn dance) is one of their fondest memories of University life,” Potempa said.