More than theater planned for legendary Goodfield Place barn

By Holly Eaton for Chronicle Media

The Barn III Dinner Theatre owner Abby Reed, left, and former Conklin’s Barn II Dinner Theatre owner Mary Simon have paired to reopen the popular Goodfield dinner theater after three years of closure. The former barn was demolished after a 2015 storm, and, as Simon struggled in court to battle objections from the insurance company, Reed landed a $1.5 million small business loan and rebuilt the facility. (Photo courtesy of the Barn III Dinner Theatre)

Two centuries ago, Scottish novelist Walter Scott wrote, “If a farmer fills his barn with grain, he gets mice. If he leaves it empty, he gets actors.”

There will be actors in Goodfield, many with faces familiar to long-time fans of what began in 1974 as Conklin Dinner Theatre. When the curtain rises in February at Conklin’s Barn III Dinner Theatre, former owner Mary Simon, will be among them.

“My whole company have been with me 20 years, and they’re all back,” Simon said. “All of them will be with us, the old Conklin players.”

On Feb.  7, Barn III will open with Gregg Kreutz’ comedy “Death by Golf.” “Nana’s Naughty Nickers” will follow in March, and the entertainment continues until New Year’s Eve.

And there’s more. Barn III owner Abby Reel has incorporated additional venues that weren’t previously available there.

“It’s all Abby. She owns the barn now, she bought it and she is the whole activator behind this project and her vision Is incomparable,” Simon said.

The entertainment odyssey began in 1975 when Simon partnered with Chaunce Conklin to host plays at the old barn on Timberline Road, hoping to fulfill Conklin’s vision of rural dinner theater. Simon took the helm in 1995, renaming it Conklin’s Barn II.

Conklin passed away 1999, one week before the turn of the century. Productions continued until 2015, when damaging winds destroyed the theater, and the barn was destroyed.

Simon’s insurance company denied her claim, and it was believed the theater was closed for good.

Excitement builds as construction of The Barn III Dinner Theatre, formerly Conklin Barn II Dinner Theatre at 1445 Timberline Road in Goodfield nears completion. (Photo by Holly Eaton/for Chronicle Media)

In August this year, a federal jury found the insurance company should pay Simon $368,000 in Barn II damages, along with an additional $100,000 in compensation for lost business. Simon now lives on the premises and works for Reel, who resurrected the theater, and added more attractions.

Reel’s mother, Carolyn, along with Shelly Hunt of Morton Community Bank and Marcia Schlicht, vice president of Growth Corp. in Springfield, have also been instrumental in the success of Barn III.

The new, improved barn, which will look much like its predecessor, will have an elevator and a modern HVAC system.

The group were able to raise more than $80,000 to help fund Barn III, which helped secure a $1.5 million Small Business Administration Loan.

“She bought the brick house property and turned it into a fitness and dance studio,” Simon explained. “She had a vision, too, of incorporating a wedding venue.”

Stage performances will host around 260 and weddings around 350. The Barn III will have two outdoor patios, so couples may wed inside or outside the barn. “We have at least 10 weddings booked, and family and high school reunions, as well,” Simon said.

Couples may also choose to marry on the second-level mezzanine, then host a reception on the main floor. The barn also can accommodate a variety of other events, such as luncheons, bridal and baby showers, recitals, concerts and fundraisers.

“Our own kitchen will cater all of the events and we can customize,” she said. “There will be some of the same recipes we’ve become known for, and that people have grown to love.”

An architectural rendering of The Barn III Dinner Theatre shows how the barn may appear during a wedding ceremony and reception. When it opens in 2019, the Goodfield event center will host weddings, lunches, bridal and baby showers, band performances and more. (Photo courtesy of the Barn III Dinner Theatre)

Conklin fans might recall the theater’s rib and chicken buffets, the coconut cream pies, Conklin’s own creamy raspberry dressing, and, of course, the well-loved Beer Cheese.

The Studio @ the Shed, may also be leased, but it primarily serves as a facility offering tumbling, dance and fitness with local professionals leading classes in Pilate’s, yoga, Insanity Live, Silver Sneakers fitness, youth athletics, jazz and tap dance.

In a few years, Simon said, the five-bedroom, three-bedroom house may serve as a bed and breakfast. Whatever the plans may be, Simon will stand by Reel, “working for her and mentoring her. I’ll be here for a long time,” Simon promised.

Dinner theater ticket sales for the 2019 season began on Labor Day through their website at, where there also is a comprehensive information on weddings, events and entertainment.






—- More than theater planned for legendary Goodfield Place barn  —-