Sunday, February 10, 2008

Valentine dinner & dancing

For the first time, the Maple Pavilion will be open to couples for dinner and dancing on Saturday, February 16th, for Valentine's Day dinner. This unique log cabin was built in 2000 after the ice storm of 1998, when we were without electricity for 24 days.
Auberge des Gallant is situated in the heart of a maple and cedar forest. Imagine 9 inches of ice on the branches... the damage was incredible to the forest and the sounds of the trees falling were similar to bombs going off every minute. We knew the first day that this was the worst ice storm and that our services would be needed. After the first 24 hours we started getting calls from families with young children that had no heat. Our rooms have fireplaces, hot water (propane) and we had lots of oil lamps for light.
Our kitchen, which also operates with propane gas, dinning room and a few bedrooms had a generator to supply us with enough electricity and heat in the common areas. We filled the rooms within 24 hours. After four days, we decided that we were not going to charge customers since we were now officialy designated a disaster zone and the provincial police were now contacting us with cases of elderly people needing shelter and not wanting to leave their homes without their precious pets. This is how we ended up with 119 adults and children as well as cats, dogs, birds and even rabbits. Thank goodness we have stables where the rabbits could stay with our horses and goat!
We bought a generator from Winnipeg (there were none to be found around here!!!) and were able to supply electricity to all the rooms after two weeks. This was a Godsend and helped us reduce the number of fireplaces burning wood which in itself was a firehazard after such continuous use.
The Inn also supplied the municipalities around us with food for their day shelters as well as over 100 cords of firewood since most homes were completely out of dry wood after such prolonged use of their fireplaces and wood burning stoves.
The experience is one we will forever remember. Yes we were completely exhausted physically and emotionally, but we were proud to have been there for those in need. Innkeeping comes with responsibility. You must not only be there when you feel like it and when it suits you. you must also be there in times of need. We could easily have closed down under the pretext of no electricity and taken off on vacation, but this would have meant no work for 40 employees and no services for people in need. We invested in our employees, customers as well as in our neighbours and at the end of the year, with all the expenses that staying open and offering our services cost us, it never showed on the bottom line.
Spring arrived early that year and with it the evidence of the damage to the forest. Large cedar and maple trees were felled everywhere. Complete trails no longer existed. A forest that took 25 years to groom was completely demolished within days. My husband was devastated.
For months we had a dozen men working at clearing the fallen trees. Hundreds of trees (we have 400 acres) of large straight trees were hauled in a clearing to make firewood. At one point when my husband took stock of the inventory, he told me that he could not in good conscience make firewood out of these trees but wanted instead to build a log cabin as a maple sugar shack.
This is how we ended up with our spectacular Maple Pavilion! It took two years to prepare the logs, and slowly put the cabin together. My husband estimated the cost of building at about 250,000$ since we had the wood... we would end up investing four times that amount to end up with a reception hall that would be booked a year and half in advance from the day it opened!
On March 1st we will be open for the sugaring off parties until April 30th, and then it is booked until the last week of October for wedding receptions. In November and December it is booked for company xmas parties.
It has been 10 years since the Iice storm. This year for the first time we think it would be fun to let couples experience an evening in this special building. Join me Saturday February 16th, for a romantic dinner and dancing with the Gary Moffett trio.

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