ARTHUR, N.D. - Outside Delon Cahoon's kitchen window is a grim reminder of what happened a few weeks ago when fire destroyed an iconic music venue he operated in this rural community 33 miles northwest of Fargo.
Arthur's Barn burned Oct. 26. The state's fire marshal determined the cause to be an electrical malfunction resulting in intense flames fueled by high winds that consumed the historic building in under an hour.
"I just wish it would have never happened," Cahoon said. "It was a legend I wish I could've kept going for another twenty years."
But the barn and its owners, Delon and wife Julie Cahoon, along with 10 children between them, are far from hosting the last dance. Instead, they plan to carry on the 60-year tradition of Friday night dances and live country music.
A benefit concert slated for sometime in January will bring together bands that regularly appeared on stage in Arthur to raise funds for rebuilding the barn. An online campaign was established and has already raised more than $5,000 in donations through T-shirt sales and sponsorships.
"The shock has worn off. Let's get the ball rolling," said daughter Tiffanie Honeyman, who is leading fundraising efforts.
A location of the benefit concert hasn't been confirmed, Honeyman said, but hundreds of loyal barn attendees were excited to hear of plans to rebuild, the possibility of a reunion and one day returning to the beloved barn dance floor.
"We're all with you and behind you and I think you have some good plans in order," wrote Hunter, N.D., native Jim Bertzyk, now living in Garland, Texas, on Arthur's Barn Facebook page. "The structure is not as important as the atmosphere that you created!"
Honeyman said the goal is to raise $100,000 by February 2018 to build a ground-level steel barn that's bigger, safer and designed with better accessibility while paying tribute to the past.
Delon Cahoon said he's in the process of reviewing bids and cleaning up the site to prepare for construction that could be complete and ready for concerts as early as August 2018.
Memories flood in
Julie Cahoon said she was at work at her radio repair business when she heard of the fire.
"I was home within 45 minutes and (the barn) was already on the ground," she said.
Gone was everything inside, including a 1984 Corvette, 1998 Chrysler Sebring and Christmas presents she was hiding for their 10 children and 26 grandchildren.
"Thinking of the things you lost, it's sad, but everybody is OK," she said.
The family gathered inside the home directly across from the burned-down barn as firefighters worked to save nearby property.
"There's nothing you can do but watch out the window," Honeyman recalled, adding she first heard about the fire through a news alert that came on her phone with only 1 percent battery left. She immediately drove from Fargo to Arthur.
News was shared on Arthur's Barn Facebook page that evening and condolences and stories poured in from people who grew up going to dances and were devastated to hear the barn was gone.
The family continues to receive messages from people of all ages across the region about their memories made at Arthur's Barn. Many said they met their spouse, proposed or got married at the venue. Others said it was a generational experience for their family and many shared photos attesting to that.
"That kinda hurts when you look and see pictures of the barn and what it was," Delon said.
As a college student in 1969, Delon said he would attend dances at the place he and Julie took over in 2015 after the Johnson family operated it for decades. Now, when asked what his hobbies are, Delon would tell people, "I throw a party for 4-to-500 people every other weekend."
The Friday night following the fire, two boys knocked on the Cahoons' front door at 9 p.m., when the band Silverado should've been taking the stage to perform to a loyal crowd.
"They heard the barn burned but they couldn't believe it so they drove out," Delon said. "We invited them in and they sat here till 10:30 p.m. visiting with us. They said, 'We meet all our friends here. I wonder what they're doing tonight.'"
Delon said he wonders, too, what everyone is doing on Friday nights that he said are lonelier now without a big crowd inside the barn line dancing and singing along to the National Anthem.
But, if he has his say, it won't be long before the barn is replaced so more memories can be made.
For details on Arthur's Barn rebuilding efforts, go to www.arthursbarn.com. The online fundraiser can be found at www.GoFundMe.com under the campaign "Help Rebuild Arthur's Barn" and donations are being accepted at area Bremer Bank locations.