Farm Lake capitalizes on Greek system with barn dance


Ben Tschetter

The west barn at Farm Lake tucked away at the edge of Urbana, IL on Oct. 24, 2017. Farm Lake provides a venue for over 40 barn dances every year.

By Brianne Victor, Staff Writer

For University students, fall is synonymous with barn dances, which are a staple for most Greek life students and campus RSOs. Off campus barn dances give students the opportunity to listen to country music, go on hayrides and sit around a campfire.

Isabella Pereira, senior in Business, said barn dances are one of her favorite events of the year. “I have been to three over the years and always look forward to it,” Pereira said.

Farm Lake, a family-run barn in Urbana, is one of the main destinations for these dances.

David Dessen, Farm Lake manager, said they have been hosting these events for almost 30 years.

“Our family has always had a lot to do with the Greek system on campus,” Dessen said. “We used to put together their composites, so we got into hosting barn dances through photography.”

Dessen said that barn dances are the only thing their business does, and about 95 percent of their profits come from Greek organizations.

Ljubica Basica, vice president external for Illini Pride, said barn dances are one of the biggest events they put on every year.

“I think that students enjoy the break from campus bars, apartment parties and other events,” Basica said. “It’s nice to go to a place that’s off campus and enjoy a night with friends instead of going to their usual places. Or even (for) students who don’t normally go out, barn dances are a fun way to change up a week and get into the fall spirit.”

However, hosting such a huge event does not come without liabilities.

Dessen said that they used to have an anything-goes approach but now they host about 80 barn dances a year, which comes with stricter policies.

Eventually, we said everyone has to arrive by bus, and we don’t allow Uber to drop off — only pick up,” Dessen said. “Some of the (Greek) houses were sending way too many cars, and we have no control over how they drive here. They drive 25-30 (mph) down a lane marked 5 (mph), and with people drinking and possibly stepping into the road, we just couldn’t have that.”

Farm Lake has also implemented a rule that says there is no hard liquor allowed unless the organization has a vendor come out and serve it.  

Basica said that barn dances have been the place of many memories during her time at the University.

“Throwing on some flannel, wearing boots and dancing out at the barn while listening to some great country music makes the whole event feel authentic and so different from other experiences I’ve had,” she said.

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