COLUMBIA, Ill. – A popular wedding venue in the Metro East burned down over the weekend. What’s left of Sugar Spring Ranch was still smoldering Tuesday, two days after it went up in flames.
The Columbia Fire Department responded to Sugar Spring Ranch on Centerville Road around 6:30 a.m. Sunday.
The venue posted on its Facebook page that its 8,000 square-foot barn was destroyed by the fire. They had just opened earlier this year and did not yet have a sprinkler system.
“We both said at the last event (Saturday night), we stood by the wall and looked at it and said, ‘we just can’t believe it’s ours’,” Greg Meyer, who owns Sugar Spring Ranch with his wife, Melinda said.
They live on the property, too.
“I’m ready to rebuild,” Melinda said. “If I could get out here today and clean this up I think I’d be right there doing it. I want it back.”
The spectacular venue was brand new, hosting six weddings, all in May. The first was May 2nd while the next was set for June 3rd.
The venue had 70 bookings stretching into 2023, the owners said.
They are working with couples on refunds and finding find somewhere else to hold their weddings. They are also scrambling to rebuild to save as many weddings as they can.
It took about two years to finish the venue the first time with COVID-related construction delays. With the pandemic easing and knowing what they know now, they’re hoping they can be ready to go again by the Fall.
They have no clue how the fire started. Investigators have told them with the level of damage, they may never know.
According to the Columbia Police chief, work on the sprinkler system was supposed to start this week.
“We’re really racking our brains trying to figure it out,” Greg said. “We had a great event. Some fantastic people got married here Saturday night. We wound up cleaning up and resetting the venue. We left about 1:30. That was the last thing we knew. We went to bed with our dream and woke up with a nightmare.”
The couples had become like family, she said.
“Most of these brides are reaching out,” Melinda Meyer said. “They want to support us. They want to help us. They’re willing to put a tent up on our property. They wanted to get married at Sugar Spring Ranch.”
A man and woman set to get married June 12th told FOX 2 they felt so strongly about Sugar Spring Ranch they were still having their wedding ceremony in a pavilion on site that was not touched by flame. The owners helped them find another venue the reception.
Ironically, Sugar Spring Ranch had been hosting weddings with a fire crew on-standby until the sprinkler system was hooked up.
That was set to happen two days after the fire.