Sunday, February 13, 2000

Country reigns at Red Barn

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        RYLAND HEIGHTS — The Red Barn country and western entertainment center has an unlisted number. Its owners don't advertise.

        Yet this out-of-the-way attraction in rural Kenton County is packed nearly every Saturday night with an assortment of cloggers, card players and country music fans from throughout the Tristate.

        Even more amazing is the fact that the crowd abides by a unique set of house rules: cursing is forbidden; no alcohol is served; and smoking is restricted to adults willing to sit in two tiny back rooms.

        Deloris Evans, who runs the popular dance hall with her husband, Sid, says the attraction evolved from a few musicians playing on the couple's front porch 30 years ago, to one that now draws up to 120 paying customers each weekend.

        Built in 1989 as a garage for Mr. Evans' custom cars, the Red Barn became a full- fledged entertainment center several years ago, as the crowds outgrew the Evans' porch and basement.

        Besides the weekly country and western entertainment, the couple also periodically brings in old time rock 'n' roll bands, and they'll resume hosting regular square dances in April.

        “Over the years, it's grown by word of mouth,” said Mrs. Evans, 66, whose speech reveals her Corbin,

        Ky., roots. “We don't list our phone number or advertise, because we don't want to attract the wrong kind of people. We want an atmosphere where singles feel comfortable, and people feel free to bring their children.”

        “The Barn,” as it's known to regulars, draws its mostly graying crowd of senior citizens and aging baby boomers for the socializing, as much as the dancing.

        “When you're divorced and by yourself, it's a good place to come,” said Louise Mercer, 63, of Crittenden, who's been making the 25-mile trip to the Barn for two years. “Sid and Deloris really run a safe, clean respectable place.”

        Sixteen-year-old Stefanie Ballinger, a clogging enthusiast, is one of the few teens to frequent the Barn's country and western night.

        “Here you can dance and have fun, and you don't have to worry about drinking,” she said.

        Mrs. Evans, who dresses in a different cowgirl costume each week, is the unofficial hostess, mingling with the crowd, cleaning up spilled drinks, and acting as the occasional enforcer when someone forgets a house rule.

        “Me, I stay busy with the ladies,” said Mr. Evans, a 65-year-old retired Butternut Breads supervisor.

        “Some of the ladies who come to the Barn don't have partners, so Sid tries to take turns dancing with them,” his wife interjected. “I'll bet he dances with 10 to 15 ladies a night.”

        “They care for you here,” said Helen Connley, a 76-year-old Taylor Mill widow who says it's not uncommon for her to dance with 12 partners in the course of an evening. “They even walk me to my car at night. I have to hug all these people before I go, because we're just like family.”

        By Mrs. Evans' count, at least 10 people have met their spouses at the Barn.

        Among them are a Miamitown couple, Florence and Jim Adams, ages 66 and 72, who had their first date at the Barn on New Year's Eve 1995 and married 14 months later.

        Others, such as Barbara Alexander, who sells hot dogs and popcorn, have found comfort there.

        Mrs. Alexander first came to the Barn in 1996, when friends prodded her into leaving the house after her first husband died. Recently, the 58-year-old Taylor Mill woman lost her second husband, John, and “practically everyone from the Barn” attended his funeral.

        For avid cloggers like Howard Royalty, a 43-year-old Williamstown maintenance man, the Barn provides a weekly recreational outlet.

        “I tell my wife, "That's the way I want to die, on the dance floor,' Mr. Royalty said. “I hope I never get too old to quit.”

        What: Red Barn country and western entertainment center

        Where: 9626 DeCoursey Pike (Ky. 177), Ryland Heights

        When: 7 to 11 p.m. Saturdays Cost: $4 cover charge; $2 for children under 12

        Directions: Take Interstate 275 to the Ky. 16 exit. Go north on Ky. 16 to the bottom of the hill, then turn right on Grand Avenue. At the third stop sign, turn right onto DeCoursey Pike and go about five miles. An illuminated, barn-shaped sign is on your right.

        Information: 356-6495


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