An Event Barn in Big Sky Country

Although the sky in Montana takes center stage, barns are an essential part of the western horizon. Barns dot the countryside in shades of weathered gray and red. Some have fallen into disrepair, but it isn’t uncommon to see an old barn preserved or turned into an event barn by new generations with a steadfast loyalty to preserving the past.

Often billed as “rustic,” a barn was actually the original rural luxury. It cost more than a home and stored a ranch’s wealth in the form of livestock, equipment and feed. Barns were painted to seal them from the elements, but the use of red paint was primarily for effect, to showcase a family’s prosperity. It kept horses and cattle safe and warm, stored hay, often in an upper loft, and provided a large space for people to gather.

The New York Times recently published a story about an event barn and the rise of barn weddings, describing some celebrations as disruptive. In Montana, it is a resurgence, since the barn was always a place of safety and community celebration. In our remote setting, a barn is nestled far away from other homesteads. A Montana barn wedding can be as private or inclusive as the family desires.

Interior of a the barn set for a wedding

According to Chere Jiusto and Christine W. Brown, in Hand Raise: The Barns of Montana, “Barns are an emblem of the importance of rural communities and family enterprise. They remind us that with spirit and ingenuity we can live in balance with the land, that we can support our neighbors who work hard and long to bring food to our tables, and that we can celebrate the bounty of their efforts. Those much-loved barns are an essential part of our cultural landscape.”

Historic Barns on Rock Creek

The Ranch at Rock Creek was homesteaded by W.W. Shaffer and P.W. White in the late 19th Century. The property still houses the historic barn that was built around this time; it’s combination saltbox and gable roof denotes early origins and English ancestry.

This barn has since been remodeled into three guest accommodations: Stables, Wrangler and The Loft. It retains most of its main structure and original wood. Although it is not a typical event barn, the building is a favorite with big families and family reunions, who book the entire historic structure.

The Buckle Barn at The Ranch at Rock Creek

Following the example of our Ranch homesteaders, it was time to raise a new event barn, dedicated to the celebrations, company getaways and destination weddings that are gaining popularity every season. This year we constructed a 5,500-square-foot building named The Buckle Barn. The moniker is a nod to a great rodeo cowboy who owned the property in the mid-20th Century.

The Buckle Barn was built from reclaimed materials gathered throughout Montana, including wood collected from structures on the Radtke Ranch in Granite County. Its white ceiling tiles were restored from an old bank building in downtown Missoula.


The structure includes a Great Hall with 21-foot ceilings and thick timber supports, a 700-square-foot flagstone patio, complete with outdoor bonfire, and an indoor meeting room and library overlooking the valley floor. To please our gourmands, we’ve installed a large commercial expo kitchen with a Woodfire Grill—its façade comprised of repurposed John Deere tractor parts. The event barn will offer on-site catering.

Interior designer Jet Zarkadas ensured the new event barn was also imbued with a sense of The Ranch’s historic past by including black and white photographs, U.S. Cavalry tack and rodeo buckle collections. Atop circular sawn fir floors, the Library is accented with lavish textiles, upholstered leather chairs and state of the art equipment.

Interior of a barn with tables and bench seating decorated for an event

Grand Opening on Autumn Harvest Weekend

We believe this building is best when experienced rather than explained, and we look forward to celebrating with friends at The Buckle Barn Grand Opening during our Autumn Harvest Weekend.

Chef Josh Drage will present meals with Montana meats and regional produce, paired with local, handcrafted beer and regional wines. He will open up the expo kitchen to guests and invite local purveyors to join the event barn celebration.

The Autumn Harvest Weekend will showcase the diversity of the space by hosting live music, a barn dance in the Great Hall and seasonal games on the Flagstone Patio and landscaped lawns. The Library will be open for cocktail hour and perusal of our book collections featuring Western novelists.

Whether you like the idea of wedding vows in the adjacent wildflower meadow, a dinner and dance worthy of a Viking Hall or a creative corporate brainstorming session in view of inspiring mountain vistas, a Buckle Barn event can be more than an gathering; it can become part of your own cultural landscape and family history.