ARTHUR, N.D. - Arthur’s Barn is nearly ready for its boot scootin’ reboot.
A new, red metal barn sits on the same spot as its wooden predecessor, which for decades had been a line-dancing landmark for the region’s country music fans before burning down a few days before Halloween 2017.
DeLon Cahoon, who with his wife, Julie, and others, rebuilt the house of honky tonk, looks forward to Sept. 13, when the first official night of two-steppin’ will take place at 1907 155th Ave. S.E.
“I think we’ll have a full house,” Cahoon predicted Monday, Aug. 19.
“My biggest enjoyment is when the bands get going is to watch 400 to 500 kids having fun,” he said. “For these kids 16 to 21, there’s no place to go” and dance.
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Cahoon laid out Arthur’s Barn 2.0 much like the original. The biggest difference being that there are no longer any stairs to trek up to get to a second-floor dance floor. Everything is on one floor in the 120-foot long by 38-foot wide space.
By the main entry door is a photo of the original barn, taken in the winter as a snowstorm moved in. On the entry’s varnished wooden log-finished walls are hand-made plaques with the names of the venue’s regular bands: Silverado, Roosters, Jacked Up. October Road, Slamabama. Missing, but yet to come, is a plaque for Redline, Cahoon said.
On the north side of the barn is a 20-foot wide lean-to addition, with bathrooms, coat-hanging area, storage space and room for seating near the stage.
The soaring ceiling is covered with wooden sheathing seared with a blowtorch to make the wood grain stand out, giving the space a distinctive, rustic look.
A bar and snacks area on the west side of the barn is finished. On the bar sits a big, orange plastic water jug.
“The kids dance hard and they drink a lot of water,” Cahoon said.
It’s not unusual for them to down 2,500 6-ounce cups of water a night during at events during the August to May dance season, he said. And they have the time of their lives.
“Some of these kids, their shirts are solid sweat, just like they came out of the shower,” Cahoon said.
The elevated stage on the east end of the barn isn’t quite done yet.
“It’ll be done by the end of the week,” Cahoon promised.
“Doing most of it myself,” the tall, burly 69-year-old said with pride.
The Cahoon’s live in a trim, white farmhouse perhaps 40 or 50 yards west of the barn. They bought the farmstead from Brian and Becky Johnson in 2015.
The original barn, known as Johnson’s Barn, had been the site of barn dances since the early 1950s, Cahoon said. From silo to silo there's room to park 200 to 300 cars.
Even Cahoon had cut footloose at the barn, putting on his boogie shoes “in 1969 and 1970, when I went to college.”
Cahoon said he and his wife “never even thought about having dances when we bought the place.”
But it didn’t take a lot of convincing to get them to continue the tradition.
“It was kind of hard not to (continue holding dances), after seeing all the fun the kids had here,” Cahoon said.
Dancers came not just from the Red River Valley, but from throughout the region, ranging from Dickinson and Williston in western North Dakota, all the way east to Alexandria and St. Cloud in Minnesota. Some bands, like Jacked Up, have drawn fans all the way from Wisconsin.
Cahoon said one patron told him that “You can go to a bar and you ask a girl for a dance and 50% of the time, they’ll turn you down. You ask at the barn, and they all want to dance,” he said.
Cahoon said the bands feed off the energy of the dancers.
“These kids come here to dance,” he said. “They come through that door and if there’s music, they’re dancing. They don’t quit.”
Julie Cahoon, who owns and operates Julie’s Radio Ranch in Fargo, said she was the varnisher and stainer on the project.
“I varnished all the walls. Isn’t that crazy?” she said.
Julie said DeLon really “wanted to have the barn back,” after the fire.
“We really got partial to the kids that came out there. They were like a family out there,” she said. “It became part of us. It’s who we are. It’s like adopting a child."
Julie said the new barn is more versatile. No steps means its more accessible to seniors and the disabled.
Now, they can accommodate weddings and other events, “because it’s on the same floor. Everyone can come. It’s going to be a great thing,” Julie said.
The Oct. 26, 2017, fire that burned the original barn was determined by an investigator to have started when high winds (gusts up to 60 mph were reported that day) caused electrical service wires from a power pole to the barn to touch. That resulting power surge started a fire in an electrical junction box on the west side of the barn.
Flames were reported about 1:30 p.m., and the barn was fully engulfed by the time fire crews arrived. Within 40 minutes of the crews arriving, the barn collapsed, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman said.
In addition to the barn, the Cahoons lost a tractor, vehicles, tools, freezers and other items stored on the first floor of the old barn, Julie said. A garage and a lean-to were lost and a semi was damaged.
DeLon was thankful that the fire department had saved his horses and other outbuildings.
Julie said it was fortunate the fire didn’t occur a day later, when a dance had been scheduled.
To rebuild the barn, DeLon spent his evenings and weekends using the skills he had honed as a steel crew supervisor for Fargo’s Olaf Anderson Construction.
Starting in June 2018, DeLon poured new footings. He had the barn’s slab poured by a local specialist and with help, had the steel structural beams in place by that September. A barn-raising of sorts was held to get the building enclosed. Hope Electric did the wiring.
A friend joined DeLon working on the building every weekend from Christmas 2018 onward.
The hours were long.
DeLon would drive truck during the days for the Arthur Companies elevator, then head to the barn at night. He’d get off work at 5 o’clock, and give the barn his sweat equity until 9 or 10 at night. He sold off his bull and small herd of cows because he didn't have time to care for them.
“We haven’t done anything but work in the barn,” DeLon said of he and his Julie. “I know I’m well over $200,000 into it. I betcha if I was in my right mind, I wouldn’t have done it."
The last band to play in the old barn was the Roosters. The band next up in the rotation was Silverado. They’ll get the honor of playing Sept. 13. Tickets will be $10 a head, he said.
DeLon likes how the Arthur's Barn redux turned out.
“I like it. This really our own touch now,” DeLon said.