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Farmers Hall restored to its former glory — and then some

A Gimli couple has completely renovated and restored a decade-old rural dance hall

It was once the heart of this farming community but by the early 1990s it looked like the last days were approaching for an old country hall on Hwy. 231 the locals called ‘Farmers.’

Its volunteer board had made the difficult decision to board up the building by then, with too many upgrades and repairs required to keep its doors open.

Still, the weather-beaten old hall could make many a passerby smile; this was, after all, where everyone partied at one time or another.

Darrell and Elaine Klym had fond memories of the place too.

There were so many socials and wedding receptions and bingos and anniversaries at this place with the fading ‘United Farmers Community Hall’ sign over its doorway, says the Gimli couple.

“We met here,” says Elaine.

Those memories flooded back one afternoon as the pair peered through its boarded-up windows a few years back. They were out visiting Darrell’s family’s farm and started to reminisce about the goods times at Farmers.

The hall was originally built in the 1920s by local farm families and maintained for decades by successive generations of those same families. A cairn on the site is dedicated to those ‘united farmers.’

The United Farmers Community Hall had been closed for several years and was slowly falling into ruin when Darrell and Elaine Klym bought the site and began it’s restoration in 2006.
photo: Supplied

Darrell’s own ties to the place were family ties too; his grandfather, Nick Klym, donated a corner of his farm back in 1941 when the hall needed to be moved from its original site near Gimli while the air base was constructed.

He can remember running around on the dance floor while his father, Joe, entertained here with his local Ukrainian band The Sunset Boys. He’d help his mother, Marnie, who served as the building’s custodian, clean the place.

And there were just so many celebrations here over the years, says his wife.

“This was a hopping social hall,” she said. “All the people around here had their socials here.”

But decades of non-stop partying eventually takes its toll, even on an Interlaker.

The building was just falling apart when the board decided ‘Farmers’ days were done.

But that afternoon the Klyms, who’ve taken on many renovations of homes, wondered if they could bring it back to its former glory.

“We’ve done a lot of renovating,” says Elaine. “We love doing that together and we can kind of look at an old building and see a vision right away.”

They took their idea of a restored Farmers before the remaining members of the hall board which gave the nod and sold the site to the pair in 2006.

Several years of renovations followed.

One of the first jobs was a new roof “to save the dance floor,” says Darrell. It was rotting and sagging but the maple hardwood looked salvageable — and it was.

“It’s what actually inspired us,” he said.

With loads of help from local tradespeople, friends and neighbours, they also had floor joists and beams replaced and redid the electrical wiring and plumbing. The entire building was given a complete paint job, new windows were installed and countless decorative touches added to restore it to its former rustic country charm and then some.

They certainly didn’t do all that work themselves, says the couple, adding they couldn’t have done all this without the help of the neighbouring farm family.

“We had major help from Edwin Petrowski and his family, who is a neighbouring farmer here,” said Darrell.

Today, Farmers is that hopping social hall once more, regularly booked for dances, family and community gatherings, fitness events, plus special entertainment nights the Klyms book to showcase local talent. It’s become a very popular wedding venue and is just the ticket for a lot of young couples tying the knot and looking for a country-style wedding.

“So many kids getting married now are looking for old-style weddings,” said Elaine. “They love this place.”

Older folks in the area who remember the former Farmers are delighted to see the country hall back in business.

“Incredibly heartwarming,” is how the Klyms describe the responses from those stepping through the doors into a brand ‘new’ old Farmers.

“People are thrilled to walk inside a building they loved but saw deterioriate over the decades,” said Elaine. “They’ve been extremely complimentary about how it looks.

“There’s just something about the building,” she adds. “It symbolizes the more simple lifestyle, when families meant something and farm work meant something.”

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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