On Barn Day, celebrated on July 14, we pay homage to the heart of every farm. Sometimes built even before the main house, they are historically the center of the farm, usually accommodating animals, grain, hay, and equipment. In fact, the word ‘barn’ originates from the Old English word for ‘bere,’ or barely, and ‘aem,’ which means storage space.
History of Barn Day
The practice of building barns did not originate in the U.S. Settlers from Europe who worked the land brought ideas from their home country, which influenced the type of barns that were being built at the time. Many modern barns took inspiration from the three-aisled medieval barns, also called monastic barns. The familiar English barn design was popular throughout North America.
Later on, different barn designs were developed according to the changing needs of the farmers.
Whatever the design, barn raising was always an integral part of farm culture. Barns protect the farmers’ livelihood, and building one wasn’t easy considering their size. Neighbors came together to help build barns for their community. Women and children would prepare food and bring tools to the men who were working on the barn. A crew would construct a recognizable barn within a day’s work as well as build friendships along the way. Once the barn raising was done, people would gather for a barn dance. These social events brought people of all ages together to celebrate harvests, weddings, and holidays. The tradition of dancing to lively music and enjoying a home-cooked meal is still practiced today, though more likely within a large indoor building space than a traditional barn.
Despite its initial builders being foreign in origin, barns have grown to be closely associated with American culture as cowboys and apple pie. If they can be maintained or reimagined for other uses, they will continue to be appreciated by future generations.
Barn Day timeline
Different styles of barns are built such as English barns, bank barns, round barns, prairie barns, Dutch barns, and crib barns.
Scotland invents the Barn Dance.
Gambrel roofs became popular and modern barns are put together with wire nails instead of timber frame bases.
The National Barn Dance radio program begins airing, also signaling the advent of country music in the U.S.
Barn Day FAQs
Is Barn Day a real holiday?
It may not sound familiar to many city folks but Barn Day is real and observed annually every second Sunday of July in the U.S. It reminds us of the rich history behind the building that is the lifeblood of any farm. Also, any excuse for a barn dance is very much welcome.
Why are barns usually painted red?
Homemade paint containing red iron oxide became popular among farmers many years back because it was cheap to produce and the color lasted for years. They also noticed that the paint kept the building warmer in winter since the darker color absorbed more heat than just plain wood. Using red paint on barns spread due to its functionality and convenience, a practice that continues to this day.
Why do barns look the way they do?
Barn design has always been influenced by regional inherited customs, what purpose they served, and by available building materials. These were often timber, brick, and stone for the outside. Wood shingles, slate, and thatch were used for roofs.
Barn Day Activities
Use the word barn, a lot
Use every opportunity to pepper your speech with this word honor of this day. It’s easy enough to say, “Where were you born? A barn?” How about, “You couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn!” This one could be a little tricky so use with caution, “Excuse me, but your barn door is open.”
Take a drive out into the country and see how many barns you can find. Most old barns look like they have a story to tell, so take pictures and immortalize those stories forever.
Throw a barn dance party
Spread a red checkered tablecloth on your dining table, invite friends over, and blast that country music! Tell them the dress code is denim, plaid, and cowboy boots. Serve some barbecue pulled pork, coleslaw, and beers to keep everyone fuelled for two-stepping the night away.
5 Ways An Old Barn Can Be New Again
Big barn, big storage
Depending on their size and condition, barns can store not just old junk but classic cars, boats, snowmobiles, A.T.V.s, or other large recreational vehicles.
Earn extra cash as a retail establishment
They make ideal retail outlets for anything grown or made on your farm.
Create a creative studio
It can be a place for pursuits such as photography, dance, yoga, as well as arts and crafts.
Make it into an event space
With the proper permits, it can also be used for events that require a large area such as weddings, dances, and parties.
Turn it into a guest house
Convert it into a detached guest house or rent it out for vacationing tourists if you live in a popular area.
Why We Love Barn Day
Barns are a constant source of inspiration
The author George Orwell’s gang of animals lived in one. Grant Wood’s famous painting “American Gothic” used it as a background. Community theaters with small budgets hold their plays in them. Barns have been present in many creative works of artists such as writers, painters, and actors for many years.
Barns brought communities together
Building a barn was a huge undertaking so families came together to help each other. Everyone was willing to help, as they knew that others would help them build theirs. They were also used as places to socialize during barn dances and community events.
Barns help us appreciate the past
They evoke a sense of tradition and are often landmarks for the community. They are sites of local heritage that also reflect the changing agriculture practices of an area. It ties us back to the history of the land.
Barn Day dates