by Trish Yerges
If you have ever dreamed of a picturesque wedding day surrounded by green pastures and a forested mountain backdrop, the red Barn at Tamarack Springs in Summerville would be the venue to book.
Co-owners Deana Coppinger and her daughter Tara Kunz are event and wedding planners at the Barn at Tamarack Springs, and this year, they have 16 weddings booked at the barn—the business of love is blooming.
Coppinger was introduced to the wedding business by her husband Kent’s grandmother, Dorothy McCurdy of Summerville.
“She was just trying to find ways to make money, so she started doing steak dinners,” said Coppinger, “like rib-eye steaks and baked potatoes. She made home-made pies. She catered a lot of Boise Cascade meals, and then she started in with the weddings. Her place was called Tamarack Springs Lodge.”
Coppinger was 18 years old and unmarried when she first started helping McCurdy cater these events, and it was a lot of fun for the two women. Then Coppinger married into the family, and in 1983, she and her husband Kent moved into the lodge while continuing to host events and weddings there.
The Lodge was a popular venue for private company dinners and weddings. “We did a lot of Christmas parties, summer picnics, campfire dinners, and I did several Forest Service dinners up there,” said Coppinger. “She was known for her big ole steaks, she purchased from Hill’s Meat. Today, we have our own grass-fed beef.”
Catered parties at the Tamarack Springs Lodge continued until the present property came up for sale. The deed history shows that this property was formerly the Starns ranch. The tiny cottage standing near the red barn was the Starns’ home. It’s hand-milled lumber came from the nearby Blue Mountains, and it gives the cottage its rustic look. One of the walls is covered with nostalgic black and white photo pages from magazines popular in the 1930s.
The Starns family sold this property to Joe and Marjorie Jarvis, who later sold it to joint family buyers, Kent and Deana Coppinger and John and Linda Mola, all of Summerville.
“At first, Kent saw it just as pasture for cattle, but I saw it as a new venue for my business. I was either going to do it or forget the idea, but finally, Kent said, ‘Go for it.’ Luckily, he helped me out a bunch in the beginning.”
The Coppingers cleaned out the old barn and in order to bring it up to code, they were going to pour a new cement floor. Just at that point in time, an unusually fierce wind storm came through and picked up the whole barn and set it down in the middle of the field.
Consequently, the Coppingers had to decide to rebuild or keep catering at the lodge. However, due to a booking they had for the new site, the Coppingers decided to move forward with building a new barn. They hired general contractor Joe Seale to build the barn, and Ron Ledbetter cut the blue pines from their 40-acre forest. It was a close call, but the new barn was finished within 30 days, just in time to host the next wedding event and all bookings after that.
“The new barn is the same floor plan as the old barn, and the stables are where we were planning to set up individual tables for steak dinners,” said Coppinger. “I love to cook, and I was going to cook dinners here in the barn.”
The Barn at Tamarack Springs has hosted 120 guests at times, but many of the wedding ceremonies are set up outdoors, closer to the forest and mountains. “Half the time, you’ll see elk, deer and turkeys out there,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
The old Starns home is used as a bridal cottage where the bride and her entourage can dress for the photo opps and the ceremony. On other occasions, the groomsmen have used it too.
As Coppinger’s partner, Kunz has been taking on a more visible role in the business this year. She meets with the wedding couple and guides them through the event planning process. Kunz also attends bridal shows in La Grande where she interfaces with the public and promotes the Barn at Tamarack Springs.
Whatever they are doing, they are doing it right because Coppinger said business is growing steadily and mostly through word of mouth. In 2015, Coppinger and Kunz hosted 13 weddings at the barn, and this year, they already booked 16 weddings.
“Our niche in this business is the selling mountain view,” said Coppinger. “It’s so peaceful here.”
Coppinger said that the 2016 business year will include more improvements to the property’s landscaping, the building of a fire pit, finishing the saloon, adding more seating areas and planting more deer-resistant flowers like elegant white marigolds.
“We’re also planning to remain open for winter events this year,” said Coppinger.
To learn more or to visit the Barn at Tamarack Springs, 69695 Craig Loop in Summerville, call Coppinger at 541-534-2881 or 541-786-5228.