New wedding, event venue opening in Liberty Hill

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By Rachel Madison

A new wedding and event venue is opening its doors to Liberty Hill and sharing its unique past at the same time.

Shawn Oehrlein, owner of Shooting Star Ranch, along with her husband, Monty, purchased the ranch property in 2004. Approximately 100 years ago, the property was a thriving dairy farm, complete with a 7,000-square-foot, two-story barn and a milk house, but when the Oehrleins purchased it, because the property had sat vacant for so long, it wasn’t a pretty sight.

“This property had been on the market for years, and it was really trashy,” Oehrlein said. “It looked like there was a dump out here. There was stuff everywhere and everything was falling down, like the fences. The barn was completely caved in. But we saw that barn and knew we could fix it even though the whole top of the roof had caved in, because the stone around it was still in perfect condition.”

Even though the Oehrleins knew they had a long road of work ahead of them, they knew they were up for the challenge.

“The first time I drove down the road this property was on (County Road 285), I drove through this long canopy of trees and just felt a peace,” Oehrlein said. “We truly believe God saved this property for us.”

They moved a doublewide trailer onto the property and began working to renovate the barn, which took two years.

“Our neighbors kept coming and telling us they’d like to help with this or that, so when we got the majority of the outside done, instead of a barn raising, we had a barn fixing party,” Oehrlein said. “We had 30 men come and work all day, and then in the evening we had a barn party that about 75 people total came to.”

As the years went on, the Oehrleins continued to spruce things up around the property, and another couple of years later, they had another barn party. The parties soon became a tradition—and grew larger each time. The last party they had included nearly 300 guests.

“We then had several family weddings here and at our home, which is also on the property,” Oehrlein said. “And when my daughter, Megan, got married, although she got married in Ireland, she had a reception here as well. That is what spring boarded the whole wedding venue thing. We ended up getting a permit and put in septic and built public bathrooms. The thing we’ve worked on over the last year is getting everything inside the barn to function better, like putting concrete floors down. Up until January, it had 100-year-old dirt floors.”

Inside the barn on the first floor, there are still stables—it’s where the Oehrleins used to house their horses up until they decided to turn the barn into part of their wedding venue—and it’s also where the groom’s quarters are. The barn still maintains all its original stone work, and the second floor, which used to be the haymow where hay was stored, has been completely renovated to be used as a ceremony or reception location.

On the second floor, the Oehrleins put in solid flooring, installed chandeliers, put French doors on either side to allow more light in, and recovered the ceiling with metal to maintain the barn’s old-fashioned look. The upstairs area can seat up to 200 people at 8-foot farmhouse tables made by a local. The barn and grounds also boast professional audio and visual amenities, like projectors, speakers and lighting, and 100-plus year old oak trees dot the property.

“It looks magical at night with all the twinkle lights lit up on those trees,” Oehrlein said.

She said her family learned about the barn’s history in a unique way—a man they purchased hay from near Bertram had personal ties to the barn.

“This man said his dad was the head carpenter on the project and he had been there with him when he was 8 years old,” she said. “He told us about how hard it was to get materials for the barn because it was being built right at the end of World War I. They had to pull wood in from all over Texas. When we started working on the barn, we saw that it had six or seven different species of wood in it. He also said there were four different types of metal on the roof because they couldn’t get enough from just one place. It was a wonderful gift to find out the history of this barn.”

The property’s old milk house is now Shooting Star Ranch’s bridal cottage. Not only does it have a lavish sitting area and bedroom for the bride and bridesmaids, but it also has a large bathroom with vanities and mirrors as well as a kitchen for catering uses.

Megan Parsons, venue manager and Oehrlein’s daughter, said the design of the venue can mostly be credited to her mother who comes up with the ideas, and her father, who uses his background as an engineer to make her mother’s ideas happen.

“It’s really been a group effort between my parents, me and my husband, Brian,” Parsons said.

As venue manager, Parsons helps customers make appointments, gives tours and provides assistance on the day of their event. While she hasn’t helped much with wedding planning in the past, it is something she’s started doing and is interested in doing more of in the future.

“People can book their events and I’ll stay out of their business, but if they want help coordinating everything, that’s a role I’m happy to fill,” she said.

Couples who choose to get married at Shooting Star Ranch have free reign, Parsons said, meaning they can decide where they want to hold their ceremony and reception.

“Some want to get married in the barn, others want to get married in the trees,” she said. “We can do the ceremony wherever they want and we work with them to do the reception wherever they want. A good amount of brides want to plan an outside ceremony and reception, but we have the barn as a backup in case the weather is bad.”

Besides weddings, Shooting Star Ranch also has capabilities to host other large events, such as family reunions or corporate retreats. The Oehrleins still live on the property and maintain a working ranch with cattle and horses. In total, the ranch covers 150 acres.

One wedding was already held at the ranch in August, but it doesn’t officially open for business until its grand opening event this weekend.

Shooting Star Ranch is celebrating the event venue’s official grand opening as well as the barn’s 100th birthday Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. The entire community is invited to attend. From 6 to 8 p.m., there will be an open house with food, beverages and birthday cake as well as lawn games, a photo booth, music and prizes.

At 8 p.m., a family-friendly movie will be shown on a giant outdoor projector screen with free popcorn and beverages. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets to the movie.

Shooting Star Ranch is located at 1704 CR 285 in Liberty Hill. For more information, visit www.shootingstarranchtexas.com.

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