JAMESTOWN – A former Christian camp turned into a thriving wedding venue in north Jamestown after opening this summer.
Hidden River Acres is nestled near the James River along Northwest Fourth Avenue, secluded among the trees of nearby homes and Washington Elementary School.
The 8 1/2 acre property has housed a range of camps and spiritual gatherings over its history, dating back to the early 1900s, before its closure in the 2000s. The property sat unused for several years until that it be transformed into the current wedding venue.
“The place would be covered with wagons and tents and families coming from all over the area to this place,” said Troy Gunderson, executive director of James Valley Youth for Christ and former camp property custodian. “The word of God would be preached, and there is significant spiritual significance in this area, which I hope will endure. There is a special blessing on this property.
Several families in the Jamestown area have ties to camp, from grandparents who went to camp in the mid-1900s to other family members who went to the Child Evangelism Fellowship program in the late 1990s. , said Gunderson.
Before the camp officially closed, it was named Fuller Family Camp. The property passed to an area church and then sold to Dean Hafner of H&H Holdings more than five years ago. Hafner had planned to develop the area into housing, with a handful of single-family homes and semi-detached houses.
Due to the cost of renovating the property, Hafner opted to sell the property to daughter-father duo Kyra Brown and Sheldon Oviatt, who were looking to build a wedding venue in the Jamestown area.
The two had originally hoped to build the grand wedding hall in Bloom Township, but changed plans due to a permit being denied by the township. Instead, they built an oasis within the city limits of Jamestown.
“We’re in town but isolated on the river, so you can’t say you’re in Jamestown,” Brown said.
The approximately 5,000 square foot building can accommodate over 400 people and 300 seats for a wedding. There is also a tabernacle for ceremonies, an event stage, dressing rooms and a kitchen.
The venue is full service, including catering, DJ, and limo service.
Brown and Oviatt are co-owners of the Corner Bar in downtown Jamestown, so they know these services well. And Brown knows how stressful planning a wedding can be first-hand, as she got married in August 2020.
Wedding space options when married were limited to most hotel convention halls. Most people who wanted to have larger weddings or different venues had to go to Fargo or Bismarck, she added.
“When my husband and I got married, there was nothing here that struck our eyes or suited us. We got married at my dad’s farm instead,” Brown said. “We did it after the fact to make it easier for all couples planning.”
Brown and Oviatt purchased the property from Hafner and began building the venue in the summer of 2021. Hidden River Acres began taking reservations last January and held its first wedding in July.
Already, the venue is nearly sold out for 2023 events and has a few events booked in 2024.
“I think it’s something the community really needed,” Hafner said. “It’s pretty obvious by the number of bookings they’ve already had.”
While there are a handful of other original buildings on the property as well as a volleyball and basketball court, Brown said the additional buildings are primarily used for storage at the moment, although that she plans to renovate them for future use, maybe even a honeymoon. after.
Gunderson said he was happy to see that the property has been turned into a wedding venue and he hopes the original buildings will remain intact. He is particularly happy that the tabernacle remained, adding that it looks like a “giant wooden umbrella”.
“These buildings are a testament to people’s ability to come together,” he said.