‘I sure do!’: Love, opportunity and some rustic charm at Windshift Acres’ wedding and events venue in Yarmouth N.S.

Tina Comeau, Tri-County Vanguard

YARMOUTH, NS – Like many barns, this one started with a purpose.

Built in the early 2000s, it housed horses and was a running stable that Michele Hood and her children tended to.

As the years passed, her kids got older, eventually leaving for university.

The horses had gotten older too. Some were sold or moved. Some passed away.

While empty, the barn remained.

It was ready for a new purpose.

Only no one knew that yet.

Lloyd MacDougal pats his dog Charlie as he sits beside his wife Michele Hood.
Lloyd MacDougall and Michele Hood, with their dog Carlie Rae, sit at a side entrance into their barn at Windshift Acres on Dearman Drive in Milton Highlands, Yarmouth County. The venue hosts weddings and other community events.

Away from the barn, when not working as a pharmacist, over the years you’d find Hood and her kids at soccer fields and volleyball courts.

Her friend, Lloyd MacDougall, was there too. He was a soccer and volleyball dad. Both were single.

Over time their friendship started to change. Hood remembers sitting on her property one day thinking about it.

It was, she says, like a shift in the wind.

MacDougall remembers too. When he found himself back on the dating scene there was only one woman for him, and it was Hood.

“I respected her so much. You can’t help but respect all that she went through and all she was able to provide for her children and her community,” he says. “There was a real respect from me, for her.”

And so, friendship became dating. Dating became an engagement. And engagement led to a wedding in 2019.

Since it would be the second wedding for both, they weren’t looking for traditional. While walking her property one day Hood thought, why not get married here?

Why not the barn?

It just felt right.

The Windshift Acres property features not only a rustic barn, but also lots of open-air space in a beautiful setting.

The Windshift Acres property features not only a rustic barn, but also lots of open-air space in a beautiful setting.

From barn to wedding venue

Back then the barn was still very much a horse stable – even without any horses – and needed some TLC to get it into wedding shape.

It was dusty and dirty. There were cobwebs. There were stalls.

But it was doable.

Their wedding was special. It was quaint. And they celebrated with family and friends.

That this was the perfect wedding venue did not go unnoticed by others.

“My stepsister Kilby was here and she said, ‘You guys have a gold mine,’” Hood says.

She kept planting the idea. The more Hood and MacDougall thought about it, the more they realized she was right.

And so they converted the barn – located on Dearman Drive in Milton Highlands, Yarmouth County – into a venue that could host weddings and other events.

Windshift Acres at night.

The barn at Windshift Acres in Yarmouth County.

The barn at Windshift Acres in Yarmouth County.

Inside the barn at Windshift Acres.

Inside the barn at Windshift Acres.

New beginnings for the barn

“This actually complements the other places that are around,” MacDougall says about the barn and property as a wedding and events venue.

But it offers a different experience too. And different is something people are looking for.

“With COVID, people want the social distancing, they want the open air,” he says.

Weddings have changed. Whereas in the past most people opted for church weddings, now – more and more – you see people getting married next to lakes, at beaches, on backyard lawns.

So why not inside a barn, or on the property surrounding it?

When the COVID pandemic hit, rather than come to a standstill this couple moved forward instead.

Renovations, including a new exterior wrap, were done to the post-and-beam barn, which has almost no nails in its outer area. It got a good power wash, which was needed. Some local history was incorporated into its interior, including wood salvaged from the old Yarmouth cotton mill.

But what to call this new business venture?

That’s when Hood remembered that shift in the wind she had felt.

They called the barn and property Windshift Acres.

Since then, some weddings have been held in the same place that Hood and MacDougall exchanged their vows.

In the place they shared their first kiss.

People, including property owners Lloyd MacDougall and Michele Hood, have found their happily ever after at Windshift Acres in Yarmouth.

“All of our weddings have pretty well been COVID weddings,” MacDougall says. “We had a wonderful wedding, five people, because they didn’t want to postpone it anymore. They had already postponed it a number of times. They had a great evening and a great time.”

Another couple, who also had to change plans due to COVID, went ahead with a wedding of 25 people when public health restrictions allowed.

Windshift Acres is licensed to accommodate 80 people inside the barn. Outside the barn, there’s no set number. Still, Hood and MacDougall try to keep things manageable.

“We try to keep the weddings at 100. That way, if you put up a tent, even on a rainy day, you have enough space, you’re not crowded,” MacDougall says.

But it’s not just weddings that have happened. They’ve hosted the Par-en-Bas prom and march. They’ve had birthday parties and a fashion show. An Ignite Labs business event was held here.

Showers, anniversary parties, wreath-making sessions, corporate retreats and business gatherings are all on the list of potential uses.
An IGNITE Labs event held at Windshift Acres.

An IGNITE Labs event held at Windshift Acres.

There is lots of outdoor space at the barn, both in a surround of the barn itself and also on the property's grounds.

There is lots of outdoor space at the barn, both in a surround of the barn itself and also on the property’s grounds.

There is high-speed Wi-Fi available and they’ve partnered with local caterers, local businesses and Mile East Productions for weddings and events.

The Windshift Acres home on the property is also available for bookings.

Since the barn is not heated, the booking season runs from May to October, with the possibility of some events in November and December.

“We get to meet so many amazing people,” MacDougall says, adding he and his wife do this while still juggling their day jobs.

“You get to be part of their celebratory event and watch them get excited.”

Experiences and opportunities

Samantha Chandler says when she and her husband Derek got married at Windshift Acres, it was an amazing experience. They were living in Alberta and planning their wedding from there.

“Lloyd was always available to answer my calls and to help make sure everything ran smoothly,” she says. Initially, they were supposed to get married in the summer, but with COVID restrictions shutting things down, they got married in Alberta in June and then later had a wedding vow renewal and reception at Windshift Acres with family.

“The property is beautiful and was perfect. We had lots of room. I always loved barns, so to have a reception in it made my dream come true,” she says, saying working with Hood and MacDougall was wonderful.

“For anyone that wants a private location that is beautiful with a rustic venue close to town, this is the spot for them.”

Windshift Acres at Night.

Windshift Acres at Night.

Lloyd Macdougall and Michele Hood stand inside the barn.

Lloyd Macdougall and Michele Hood stand inside the barn at Windshift Acres. The barn started out many years ago as a horse barn but it is now a venue for weddings and other community events.

Hood and MacDougall, meanwhile, also want to host events that give back to the community.

“We’ve had a discussion about possibly having a scotch tasting here, on a nice summer night, and have some local artisans out and an auction, and it all going to a good cause,” MacDougall says. “We’ve talked about a day where we could say thank you to the first responders who have given so much in the past two years, maybe with a barbecue. We want to do good things for people.”

Still, the couple is walking down this new road, not running.

“We’re not looking to be a success overnight; it’s a learning curve,” MacDougall says.

His wife likens it to a slow waltz.

“You learn as you step into the whole thing,” she says.

The couple says that the COVID pandemic has changed people. People are looking for smaller, safer spaces to celebrate and enjoy life’s moments. “COVID has made communities tighter,” says Hood. “People are going to stay within their communities.”

And that’s a good thing, says MacDougall, whether you are the one hosting an event or the one enjoying it.

“People from small towns, there’s a real desire to be a part of the community and to give back to the community,” he says.

“Sometimes, you take for granted the most amazing little benefits. You get that personal touch. And that’s what we’re all about.”

Windshift Acres.

Windshift Acres.