BENNINGTON TWP. — With her background in hosting parties, and her love of the countryside, transforming a barn into an event venue was a natural move for Lisa Suski-Adams.
The grand opening for Bear Creek Farm, located on a 70-acre farm at 5703 W. Bennington Road, is set for Sept. 28. The public event kicks off with a ribbon-cutting at 11 a.m., followed by an open house featuring a full range of event vendors from noon to 4 p.m. and a fundraiser for a cancer-stricken veteran from 4 to 10 p.m.
“I combined my love of event planning, decorating and the farming life I’ve experienced on my daughter’s farm to create this,” Suski-Adams, 58, said during a tour of the venue Wednesday. “Also, I wanted to give back in some way by having fundraising events here.”
It’s easy to picture Bear Creek Farm as the backdrop for country weddings and receptions. Those entering the property take a long driveway up to a farmhouse on the right, and a barn and other buildings on the left.
Beyond the house and barn is a large pond surrounded by willow trees that can be used as a wedding site. Bear Creek winds along the land’s eastern boundary. In addition to 50 acres of crops, there are 20 wooded acres and wildlife, including deer and sandhill cranes.
“I’ve even seen a bald eagle fly overhead,” said husband Gary Adams, who helped with the remodeling.
Built in 1908, the barn is spacious, sweeping up to a dramatic 47 feet tall, and is temperature-controlled. The original wood, including the intricately beamed ceiling, has been preserved, as have the other historical features. Every square inch has been cleaned, and in some cases sanded and revarnished to a sparkle.
The old hayloft has been transformed into a second story featuring a long balcony and railing that looks to be ideal for photographs of the bride and groom after the ceremony. Behind the loft is a bridal suite, complete with bathroom facilities, windows and a Murphy bed.
The large room on the barn’s first floor has a new concrete floor, Edison lights and carriage-wheel chandeliers. The groom has his own room, too, located in the remodeled former caretaker’s house near the barn and highlighted by a pool table, poker table and large TV. The caretaker’s house also contains a prep warming kitchen and offices.
Attached to the barn is a large patio area on which a 40-by-60-foot tent can be erected. At the end of the patio are two bonfires, and there’s a third bonfire by the pond. On the grassy area behind the barn, guests can play such country games as horseshoes, croquet and cornhole. They can tool around in a golf cart.
The amenities and features of Bear Creek Farm, too numerous to list, are the result of Lisa Suski-Adams’ unfailing attention to detail and her desire to perfect each one.
“It’s rustic, with a touch of elegance,” she said. “I’m a romantic at heart, and I love seeing people happy.”
Suski-Adams, who grew up in the Flint area, has worked as an administrator at McLaren - Flint and instructor at Baker College of Flint. She eventually started her own business, Mid-Michigan Medical Billing, which has 100 doctors as clients and 40 of her best Baker students as employees, 25 years ago.
Over the years, she has hosted many events in order to grow her business and provide networking opportunities for doctors. She evolved into a hostess with flair, and realized how much she enjoyed putting on parties.
“Everyone said, ‘You’re so good at this,’ and I loved it,” Suski-Adams said, adding that she also did a lot of interior decorating for friends, family members and even a couple of doctors — just for fun.
The couple’s daughter, Shannon Ahearn, is an award-winning equestrian who lives on a farm in South Carolina.
Suski-Adams is transitioning out of Mid-Michigan Medical and into Bear Creek Farm. About 11/2 years ago, she and her husband began searching for the right old-fashioned farmhouse nestled in a bucolic setting, not only as a place to live but as the site of an event venue.
When the pair pulled into the driveway on Bennington Road, Lisa Suski-Adams became emotional.
“I envisioned this place, and then I found it here,” she said. “A wedding is such a special day for the bride and groom. I wanted to be able to make something pretty and memorable and affordable for them. I love seeing happy families together.”
Throughout the process of developing the venue, which included a rezoning and building permits, she said people in the community have offered a helping hand. Especially helpful, she said, was Cheryl Peterson, business consultant for the Shiawassee Michigan Small Business Development Center in Owosso.
“The people in Shiawassee County are fabulous,” Suski-Adams said. “We have gotten tons of support.”
Having enjoyed a successful career, she said, it is important for her to give back. That’s why she plans to provide a free venue for worthy fundraisers.
The first fundraiser will be held during the evening of the grand opening. It’s for Joe Ulanski, 59, a former Marine who was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago. He recently found out his condition is terminal. His illness has been financially devastating, Suski-Adams said of her old high school friend.
Hosting the fundraiser is Kimberly Bowen, owner of Welcome Home assisted living centers and developer of Welcome Home Veterans in Bancroft. Radio DJ Jim Landon is lending his skills, and items donated by local businesses will be featured in a silent auction.
“Lisa is very passionate about this whole idea of an event venue,” Gary Adams said. “She’s so excited about this happening. It’s her dream job.”
Bear Creek Farms hosts all types of events, not only weddings and fundraisers. Other examples are holiday parties, family reunions and corporate events.