SEVIERVILLE — It was an old East Tennessee barn that interrupted the retirement plans of Connie Kaschalk after she moved here from Cleveland, Ohio.
The general manager of Wildflower Event Center has more than 40 years of experience in the hospitality industry. She relocated to Sevier County with the intention of retiring, but those plans soon changed after conversations with her neighbors who were tearing down a barn.
Wood from the historic John Ogle farm’s barn is a key component of the Wildflower Event Center that hosts a ribbon cutting on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
Kaschalk’s talks with Bob and Bekki Pickney, the owners of the farm and its barn, led to the job offer that now has her overseeing events at the facility in Sevierville.
“After talking to him for one day, they offered me the general manager job,” Kaschalk said. “I decided I’m no longer retired.”
The new event center has been in the works for several years.
Kaschalk said the Nashville couple purchased the Ogle farmhouse in 2012 and the barn in 2017.
“I got involved in 2019,” she said, adding that she first contacted the Pickneys to urge them not to tear down the barn.
Much of the wood from that barn can now be seen inside the new facility, which has approximately 5,000 square feet. Wildflower Event Center hosted its first wedding on March 6.
Renovations to the farmhouse took about five years. Guests can book the four bedrooms and four baths for overnight stays. The house sleeps 12 people.
Kaschalk is working with staffers to make the venue a place that is welcoming to locals. They plan on hosting events such as yard sales, craft fairs, family reunions, anniversaries, dances and proms.
“We want to be a blessing to others in the area,” she said.
Staffers include housekeeping supervisor Tina Hawks, host Elise Parrino and Alex Brandon, an event specialist who also handles social media. There are current openings for a part-time bartender, event coordinator and housekeeper.
“I plan on reaching out to young people interested in hospitality,” said Kaschalk. “I hope to help young people develop their skills.”
The Sevier County School System and Walters State Community College have hospitality programs.
“We’re neighbor-friendly,” Kaschalk said. “We close all events by 9:30 p.m. We are in a residential neighborhood.”
Wildflower Event Center is located at 1225 Jayell Road, Sevierville.
Information is available at www.wild flowerec.com or 865-250 9394.
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