Life Is Good On the HillOct 01, 2021 08:15AM ● By Lilace Mellin Guignard
There’s a new venue in the town of Sylvester in Brookfield Township, just outside Westfield. Okay, not really new. For generations, the Mead family has owned and operated a dairy business, a construction business, a logging business, and currently a USDA custom meat processing facility on several hundred acres. With that history, adding another wasn’t unusual.
Not that Rick Mead and his wife Veronica planned to do this. Their hilltop was cleared in the 1970s when Rick’s dad, Dick Mead, was a youth baseball coach and there weren’t enough fields to practice and play on. “Dad bulldozed a spot and held practices. Problem solved,” says Veronica. That space, always called simply “On the Hill,” became a favorite family gathering area. Wood from an old farmhouse on site was used to build the first pavilion, then years of camping, picnicking, and archery shooting followed. “The kids learned how to ride bikes up on that bank,” she points.
When it came time for their middle daughter, Traci, to get married, she asked if she could have her wedding under the huge oak tree that had held a tire swing in her youth. “Okay,” Rick thought, “we’ll update the pavilion and have a wedding.” But it soon became apparent that wouldn’t be big enough. Rick, who has designed and built buildings, started looking around at the wood and other items he could reclaim. A plan for a new pavilion and large building soon fell into place. The pavilion was started in May 2020, the large building was started in June 2020, and Traci’s wedding was celebrated at the end of August 2020. It was a frenzy of work with the building not yet completely finished, but the wedding was beautiful. Several more weddings have since been held there. “The word got out and calls are coming in, so I guess we’re in business!”
The site has just the right mix of trees and openness. The large oak that Traci loves has center stage, watching over the outdoor area, having become a leafy chapel of sorts—as well as their logo. There’s room for attendants on either side of the bride and groom, as well as a place for the officiant. Solid hemlock benches, beautifully weathered, are angled in fan formation on either side, as well as extra room for those who prefer to stand. A concrete path winds between the benches from the large building that houses the bridal suite upstairs over the kitchen. There are three bedrooms, a well thought-out bathroom that allows a bevy of women to get ready at once, and a back door with balcony and stairs. Veronica chuckles, “I tell all the brides that if they get cold feet they can sneak out the back.”
Below is 6,600 square feet of well-lit space that includes an ash wood dance floor and a heated concrete floor under the tables. It’s big enough that—should the couple prefer or the weather insist—the ceremony can be held inside. Near the kitchen stretches a long serving table made from reclaimed wood under a light fixture made from an old farm ladder. Above the dance floor, there’s a loft for musicians or a DJ. And of course there’s a live-edge wooden bar with a warm luster just waiting for a reason to celebrate. Those renting the space are responsible for hiring a caterer and bringing the booze, but the venue includes a kegerator, ice machine, and full-service kitchen.
In nice weather, there are options for outdoor eating. A new pavilion has replaced the old family one, and now includes rooms and bathrooms where groomsmen can get ready. The outside is wired for electric so music and lights are no trouble. In front of the pavilion is a swing set, volleyball sand court, horseshoes, and plenty of space for other games. Off to the side is room for many campers and RVs. Joe and Kali Dennison were married there in May 2021 and appreciated having the ability for folks to camp there all Memorial Day weekend. “We enjoyed being out in the middle of nowhere with no ‘quiet hour’ and no need for folks to travel to and from the site,” says Joe. “It was great. The indoors and outdoors flow together and having so many options makes it less stressful to plan for contingencies.”
Being able to have the space for the entire weekend means not having to separately book a rehearsal space.
Oddly enough, the pandemic brought the Meads some good luck. The builders Rick wanted to work with weren’t sure how to fit it in to their schedules, but when businesses starting shutting down they asked if he was ready to go. “People suddenly had the time and some were worried about being stuck with a lot of inventory. I got some great deals on trusses and spray foam,” Rick explains. The dryness of that summer also worked in their favor. The concrete floors went in quickly. “The Lord works in mysterious ways,” is something he says more than once.
They have more plans for On the Hill, like adding a bandstand and more hookups for RVs.
It’s changed up there, for certain. But growing from a purely family spot to a place for others to also gather for special events seems like a natural evolution. The website is still under construction. For more information on what packages are available and to arrange a site visit, contact Traci McCarthy at On the Hill Events at (814) 367-5803 or [email protected].