The Barn and GCBD, The Kunkels, The Band

The Barn and The Kunkels
A short history.


The Kunkel's have created a down home western style establishment in the middle of nowhere that has grown into one of the best family experiences in Canada. First inspired by his father Lloyd who started the place during the eighties, Trevor Kunkel continues the tradition with his family taking the reins of a business whose success is spreading like prairie fire.

"We have always entertained," he admits, as if that's what he was born to do. "Dad started at an early age. My brother and I joined his band and we played in the Calgary area for a while before going out on our own. Dad was about to retire in 1985 when he suggested doing barn dances – something he used to do as a kid on the prairies."

His father's eyes lit up, recalls Trevor. "My Dad and Fred Brooks – who owned it at the time, drove up to the barn after a chance meeting. There were still cows and horses in it." The Kunkel family saw the potential right away: "200 people could fit in there. This gentleman had fixed up the floor, and his kids were playing basketball and roller skating upstairs before we took it over. We rented the barn, cleaned it up a little and got going with the dances. In 1991 we bought the barn and about 30 acres." Pretty soon people were phoning and showing up with RV rigs, asking if they could park in the field overnight instead of driving back to the campground. This prompted the Kunkels to add a 10 site campground. "Now we are up over 90 sites. There is a little lake here where the geese have also made a home.

"After a time, the landowner started to think things were getting a little too busy around here, so he gave us his blessing to buy the rest of the property and 60 acres of land," continues Trevor. "We put cement down on the main floor where the stalls used to be. We divided it all up and put heating in, added a kitchen and a gift shop, and developed a nice little group area outside of the barn with two seater swing chairs and benches overlooking the lake. We started a bed and breakfast operation and built cottages as well."

The Kunkels keep busy with functions at the barn and out of town with musical dinner theater shows , festivals in the summer and specialty dances in the fall, there are Cowboy Christmas celebrations, too. "We've been living here since 1998, so it became easier doing this full time and adding dinner shows," confides Trevor. "Now my wife and my sons sing and play in the dinner show. It has gone crazy."

When asked what it is about the quality of the experience presented by the Kunkel family that makes them stand out, the discussion quickly turns to the fact that it is family owned , family run and the guest who come out feel that they become part of the family themselves. We offer a unique experience where the whole family young and old alike can be involved . The family remaining true to good old fashioned values plays a big role at this operation. Looking after customers with authenticity, while being innovative at the same time.

It was a gamble for the Kunkel's out here in the country, any operation needs a critical mass of guests to be viable and Hill Spring is not exactly the centre of the universe. But the property's appeal is undeniable: "It is just amazing. We are in the middle of nowhere, but we are – in some ways – in the middle of everything with three world heritage sites nearby, Waterton park, lakes for fishing and boating, as well as the carriage museum. Kids are really over stimulated these days, so just going back to the basics is soothing for them. We bring everybody under one roof, feed them and then play some great dancing music. The family gets to enjoy each other's company, and people see the transformation in their kids."

Article by Claude-Jean Harel