SIDNEY — It’s been over 10 years since a fire destroyed a function hall at a family-owned venue on Marigold Lane. The hall was rebuilt on the property owned by a single family for eight generations, but sat empty, looking over the lake at Bangs Beach. And there it sat, waiting.

And now, the wait is over with familiar faces staying put.

The Lakeside Lodge at Bangs Beach, owned and operated by the Milligan family, will officially reopen as a wedding venue in early July with an open house.

Today, the venue is run by three sisters — Mandy, Laurie and Maggi — and a brother, Dan. Mandy said her family has owned the property for eight generations. Originally, it was a farm and was all pasture land. At some point, their father opened a marina on the property, and in 2000 it was opened up as a wedding venue.

And then the venue burned down in 2005. The cause was never determined. Maggi said they had to shut down. The family considered selling, as the finances didn’t seem to be available to rebuild.

But the family stayed. Mandy said they all camped out on the property for that summer and fall, building a house on the property for their parents. Maggi said her parents are nearing the age of retirement, so the siblings have taken over running the business. The goal is to have the parents retire on the property.

In addition to the house, the venue hall was rebuilt. But the structure sat empty for a number of years, as the family wasn’t in a financial position to operate a business. They formed a limited liability company, commonly known as an LLC, and now the four are in a position where they can run the business. While the building had just been an “empty shell,” as Mandy put it, it is only within the last year that the siblings were able to do what they’ve done.

“It wasn’t financially possible then,” Maggi said of the years after the fire.

The Lakeside Lodge, an open, rustic-type building, has a seating capacity of 120. Mandy said the spacious venue is definitely filling a niche, as rustic weddings continue to grow in popularity. All three sisters had their weddings on the property, so seeing the venue open back up as a family business meant a lot to them.

“It’s really special to us,” Mandy said.

Maggi recalled working at the property when the siblings were younger, staffing the snack shack on the beach or taking admissions to the beach. They grew up working on the property, and that won’t change.

“It was our first jobs,” she said.

While rain poured outside the hall on a messy afternoon last week, the view of Messalonskee Lake was all but impossible to miss. Bangs Beach itself was private from the 1950s to the late 1980s. Then came the marina. In 2001, the beach was made public, though the property has since returned to being private.

According to the “History of Sidney, Maine, 1792-1992,” a book published by Picton Press in 1992 available at the Town Hall and in the Sidney Historical Society’s research center in the old Grange Hall, Bangs Beach was likely the first part of Messalonskee Lake to be developed. The books relates that Stella Woodcock Bangs and her husband, Albert Bangs, cleared the shore on the former Woodcock farm property and opened the beach to the public many years ago.

“Before the dam was built in Oakland which raised the water level, it was possible to wade out on the sandy bottom approximately 200 feet,” the book reads. “After a while the Bangs set up a tent from which they sold refreshments. Several bath houses were also constructed on the property. When business outgrew the tent, a log cabin was built. Soon an even larger refreshment center was built. Finally, in 1947, a dance pavilion was built behind the store. Pinball machines and a juke box were later additions. The flat level fields west of the dance hall was used as a baseball field, with a town team playing other town teams on Sunday afternoons. Because of its size and the parking space available, the grounds were often used by companies from Augusta or Waterville for company outings. At present the grounds are closed to the public.”

The venue offers much of what a wedding will need. Unlike some other rustic venues, Mandy said Lakeside Lodge has two full bathrooms. There is a prep kitchen behind the scenes for catering. All the tables and chairs are on site.

And there are still plans for the future. A lofted area above the bathrooms and kitchen is otherwise unusable now, but Maggi said they may put in a staircase to make it accessible. They’ve already hosted one event so far, an 80th birthday party. On July 8, the siblings are hosting an open house to let anyone interested — especially engaged couples — see the property and begin thinking about the big day. They’ve largely held off on advertising the open house, save for a Facebook post, because they were still working hard to get the property and the 2,500-square-foot venue ready.

“It’s been right down to the last minute,” Mandy said.

While the Milligans know most people looking for venue space would more than likely be booking for next year, they are planning to offer specials for lovebirds looking to fly into matrimony sooner rather than later.

“We’ll try a fun summer shotgun wedding special,” Mandy said.

Earlier this year, operators of venues like Lakeside Lodge were dealt a surprise when it was learned that Sidney was actually a dry town, and it was against the town’s ordinances to sell open containers of liquor on-site anywhere in town. In the past, permits had been issued by the town to allow the sale of liquor at local events. But last year, as caterers were preparing for an event at the Snow Pond Center for the Arts, they were informed that money could not be exchanged for open containers of liquor in the town.

This would have been a major blow to both Snow Pond and the Lakeside Lodge, but the two groups worked together to get enough signatures to get a rule change before voters. The change was approved with a few stipulations. Sundays remain a day when alcohol cannot be sold on the site. Instead, Mandy said anyone booking for a Sunday would have to have an open bar or a bring-your-own-beverage agreement with guests.

Maggi said the unanticipated news of the ordinance and the work that went into changing the rule set them back a few months.

But the sisters persisted, the rule was changed, and on that day they admired the work they had done getting the property back to this state.

“It’s amazing how much we got done,” Mandy said.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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