In 1893 Shane McCool's great, great, grandparents bought the Zolck family farm from the railroad on which now sits Willow Creek. The creek however has nothing to do with how the McCools came up with the name. We’ll get to more of that later though. To this day there have been six generations of family that have lived on the farm. Shane McCool even recalls his Great Grandfather telling stories of traveling gypsies and Indians coming through to water their horses in the creek when he was a child. If the dirt from this farm could talk it would tell stories of love, family, hard work and helping one another out in times of need. The stories that the farm could tell truly are endless.
It was in 2002 that Gene & Peg McCool came up with the idea to construct a wedding chapel on their family farm for couples to have a unique country location to get married. They chose a spot nestled at the bottom of the valley of rolling hills right next to a creek. Shortly after deciding to go ahead with the project is when construction began but of course they needed to come up with a name to call the business first. Within a matter of minutes the McCools came up with the name Willow Creek. When Shane played high school basketball he used to play against a little town named Willow Creek. It was a name that the family had always loved and it was at that moment that they would be known as Willow Creek as the umbrella for the Willow Creek Glass Chapel & the Willow Creek Barn as well as the future Willow Creek Trails.
Gene, Peg and their son, Shane, began construction on the bridal cottage first and then the bridge from that building to the chapel. Soon after they poured the concrete for the sidewalks. Peg was in charge of doing most of the landscaping with flowers, trees, etc. Gene hired a construction company to construct the majority of the chapel, although the McCools put their fair share of work in on that as well doing finish work - even recycling & refinishing old pews from a church in Missouri that are in the chapel to this day.
It was in 2009 that Shane and his wife Maritza took over running the day to day operations of the business full time after Gene & Peg took on a new business venture that took them away from the wedding business. It was in 2011 that Shane & Maritza began construction on a banquet hall which soon got a name change in 2012 to the Willow Creek Barn. During construction of the barn, Shane & Maritza received a hard hit when an early April 2012 storm came through, accompanied with near 70mph straight winds that ripped a good portion of the roof off. Six of the next eight days after that they received rain, and lots of it, which poured inside the barn destroying the flooring. Although they were down and out, they continued moving ahead with their project never letting anything get them down.
The whole idea behind the Willow Creek Barn started when Shane tore down some of a barn off of his Uncle's farm years ago that was going to be bulldozed over and burned. He constructed a couple of pieces of furniture out of the wood he reclaimed and it got him to thinking that you could probably build nearly an entire building out of recycled materials if you really put the effort in to it. Shane began with tearing down an out building on a friend's farm close to home. After that he was getting stuff here and there and even spent every waking moment he could driving all the way back and forth numerous times to Creston, NE reclaiming material from old farm buildings. Eventually he had enough to finish out the inside the way he wanted to and at the same time reclaim as much material as possible to give it a second life. About half of all you see on the inside of the barn is recycled/reclaimed material and is an accumulation of eight different buildings ranging from Wiota, IA to Creston, NE.
Despite nearly having their dreams sidetracked by a bad bit of weather, the McCools moved on and have not only completed this project, but have added on another 2600 square feet of deck and a bridge that spans across the pond to an open air outdoor area for couples to say their "I do's". Couples now have two options of where to get married - indoors or outdoors. They are now in the process of adding over two miles of boardwalk pathways for closer access to nature throughout the property that the business sits on. You won't find a location as unique as Willow Creek and you won't likely find anyone quite as hardworking as the McCools either.
When you come to visit Willow Creek you are in the country and there is no doubt about that. There is dirt, dust, mud and there are even things that could poke, scratch, sting or bite you. If you're really lucky on just the right day, when the breeze is blowing perfectly, you might even get a good whiff of pig manure in the air. Along with all of those things though comes a great deal of beauty and serenity on the property that you will not find anywhere else. Shane & Maritza are a laid back couple that do nearly everything themselves other than a few jobs that are necessary to hire out. They believe that marriage should be based on love, helping one another out in times of need, and a great deal of hard work. LOTS of hard work. With that lies the foundation to begin a family. For those reasons is why they choose to do what they do for a living.
Aside from the slight possibility of something maiming you out in the wilds of the country or getting your car a little dusty on a couple miles of gravel roads getting to Willow Creek, Shane & Maritza hope that everyone that spends their day with them has a remarkable time and they hope to see all of you that visit come back again and again for many decades to come.