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Supporters celebrate new Venetucci barn with song, dance and 270-pound roasted pig

April 5, 2014 Updated: April 6, 2014 at 11:33 am
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photo - Becca Barad and Ben Miller dance to live music from the band, Burn the Maps, at the Venetucci Farm Pig Roast and Barn Dance Saturday, April 6, 2014. The event raised money to help finish the farm's newest barn, which will be used for activities, events and housing livestock. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
Becca Barad and Ben Miller dance to live music from the band, Burn the Maps, at the Venetucci Farm Pig Roast and Barn Dance Saturday, April 6, 2014. The event raised money to help finish the farm's newest barn, which will be used for activities, events and housing livestock. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette 

The sweet aroma of smoked pork replaced the smell of sawdust, and the simple notes of a bluegrass band drowned out the sound of shoes shuffling on a hardwood floor.

It all seemed too calm, too laid-back to be called a "barn raising," but that's what nearly 100 people at Venetucci Farm on Saturday intended to do, with a bit of a new twist on the tradition that involved less labor and more celebration.

"The average person doesn't have the skills to do a traditional barn raising," said Craig McMullen, sitting in the tall, newly erected barn, flashing a grin.

The Venetucci Farm hosted a cookout and dance to celebrate the opening of its new barn - a towering red monument on the popular destination for schoolchildren and community farmers - and to raise money to add amenities to it.

"It's been a labor of love to get this barn up and out of the ground," said Michael Hannigan, executive director of the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, which received the farm from its previous owner, Nick Venetucci, as a means to keep it going after he retired from working the land.

The farm's former barn blew down during a windstorm roughly 20 years ago, and after the foundation took over the farm, Hannigan set out to bring it back.

The foundation broke ground on the facility in August, Hannigan said. About $350,000 of that work has been completed - meaning five stalls now wait in the basement for the farm's horses, a few feet from an area that will be used to wash vegetables.

The main level offers space for classes, meetings and square dancing shindigs like the one on Saturday. It figures to become a vital piece in the farm's goal of educating elementary schoolchildren across the region, said Susan Gordon, who manages the farm with her husband.

"We want kids ... to know where their food comes from," Gordon said.

The foundation still needs up to $50,000 finish it off with a greenhouse, a deck and a bathroom - a total that dropped a bit after Saturday's fundraiser.

In a way, the barn offered another sign of the farm hardening its roots along U.S. 85/87 - ensuring the continuation of autumn pumpkin harvests for elementary students and community-based farming initiatives for nearby residents.

Sitting before a helping of the 217-pound pig that organizers smoked for Saturday's dance, Elaine Doudna couldn't help but smile. She volunteers regularly at the farm - a means to help relive days spent on her grandparents' farm in Kansas.

"This is like coming back to my own roots," Doudna said.

She never went to a real barn raising at her grandparents' farm, but it likely would have been a little more rustic, a bit more work.

It would have been different, except for one thing.

"This is such a community-building event," she said.

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