BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WEST POINT – If you head south of West Point on X23 you see mostly timber and farmland on both sides of the road, but tucked back off to the west about three miles south of town is the future sight of something “grand”.
Danielle Neaves, along with her mother Ann Newton Neaves, are building an event venue right along side the home they built with their own hands about 19 years ago on land that’s been in the family for generations.
The venue, called “Small GRAND Things”, is being planned as a center for weddings and other events, that came as the brainchild of Neaves.
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The West Point native moved back to the area from Washington D.C. last year. She is an operations specialist, who coordinates and manages about 90 facilitators around the world for Challenger Inc. Neaves works remotely for the company and was able to move back home.
Her family moved to Texas in 2006 and she just moved back in October after renting out the property for about a dozen years.
The project was supposed to begin in the fall, but the quick winter put the project on hold until this spring. She said construction should be done by the end of July and is hoping to have a grand opening before the Sweet Corn Festival.
She is already booking the center for the fall, but isn’t accepting bookings before Sept. 1 and has three wedding packages ranging from a grand to $3,500 with add-ons available such as a bridal suite, a honeymoon suite, “Pajamas and Pancakes” and a Mimosa Bar and Beverages add-on. There is also a half-loft in the pavillion for small gatherings, showers, and birthday parties.
Neaves said the home she grew up in will become a space for overnight accommodations for wedding parties. They had a garage close to the west side of the home, that was taken down. The foundation and back wall is still in place, but sits where the new pavilion will be.
The pavillion will hold up to 300 guests with room for a DJ and a glass wall that will look out into the trees. There will be a warming kitchen on site, but food is not included in the packages.
“We had originally wanted this to start construction last fall but the snow came fast and forceful, so we had to wait until the spring,” Neaves said. “We don’t have any hard dates yet until we have some walls up, but we do have some fall bookings already so that’s exciting.”
She said she’s always known she wanted to build on the property she grew up on.
“I always knew I wanted to build something here. I knew it would be a venue, wedding-ish, but I didn’t really know until I was in DC and started putting pen to paper,” she said.
“It wasn’t until I was sitting down with some eggplant parm at a restaurant in DC I really like and my mom was visiting and I just said, ‘Ok, mom, this is what I want to do’, and she was like, ‘Ok..let’s do it.'”
She said there are a few other venues in the area, but this location would be more efficient for people in Lee County and the number of bookings she’s already had shows the demand for a natural place for events.
Other amenities will include various altar spots including a dock by the pond with an amphitheater, an altar down in the trees for a more wooded look, and she’s also part of the Bee and Butterfly Conservation Act and will have native grasslands on the property.
“That will all be native grasslands and flowers so we can really cater to anything you want and, depending on the size of the wedding, we can really work with you on those types of things,” she said.
Neaves said it’s not just for weddings and receptions, she has hourly rental rates as well starting at just $50 for four hours, with additional hours $10 each Monday through Thursday. Weekend rates are $100 for four hours with each additional hour $20. From 8 a.m. to midnight on the weekend is $350.
“It’s been interesting to see the excitement and the demand I have received since we announced we’re doing this on top of the research I’ve already done,” she said.
She said a lot of the recent interest has come from outside the county, which brings additional revenues to the area in the form of food, lodging, and transportation.
Fall bookings are now being accepted and can be made by contacting Neaves at 319-837-8132 or at the event website at smallgrandthings.com.