ELLICOTT • Carrie Nee remembers when none of this was here.
This land first became her home as a teenager who wasn’t so sure about moving from Colorado Springs to this much smaller town. It was a place where there is not much to see, but there is a place to ride your horse. It was a town without many people, but where she met the man she wanted to marry.
She met Joe at Ellicott High School. After they got married, they moved into the property that belonged to her parents. Once again she began to walk home.
“We had plans to one day eventually make it ours,” Nee said. “But nothing like that.”
One of Nee’s first plans involved planting.
“We planted every tree on this property,” she said. “The trees grew with our children.”
Over the next 40 years, plans turned into projects. The projects were piling up. The trees grew. Nee and her husband, a handyman who started his own landscaping business, got rid of the double-wide trailer and built a house. They built a garage and other buildings. They made a garden with a pond in the front yard. They began decorating in a Southwestern or Spanish style in honor of their admiration for New Mexico. They added some stucco walls and lots of turquoise paint.
“It’s just my color,” Nee said. “I’m a turquoise girl.”
It slowly became a paradise for friends and family. A few years ago a friend made a comment.
“Someone said it would be nice to get married under that tree,” Nee recalled. “It never crossed my mind.”
The idea crossed her mind more. She and her husband came up with a new list of projects.
In May 2016, Nee hosted her first wedding at her home venue, which she named Casa Coyote.
Nee had no experience in the world of weddings. But her heart is in helping people, having worked as a waitress at Sheldon’s Luncheonette for years.
“Every wedding has taught me something new,” she said. “It was a learning experience.”
In the years since, additions have come in stages as Nee had time or money. A large wooden pavilion serves as the reception. The wooden dance floor has trees sprouting from below and mountain views. Bar area called Casa Cantina. Gravel paths surrounded by plants and flowers. One takes guests from the grassy parking area, past a flowing water wall and into the stucco courtyard, where ceremonies for up to 100 people are held.
“We did all the work ourselves,” Nee said. “Work in progress.”
She started small, charging little and doing only a few weddings a year. Her busiest season came in 2021, when Casa Coyote booked 11 weddings. This was after Nee felt the place was ready for a little advertising through Facebook.
“Before, it was all word of mouth,” Nee said.
“Welcome to Casa Coyote Event Center,” the Facebook page reads. “If you want something out of the ordinary, then this is the place for you.”
That proved to be true, according to the comments Nee hears from couples and guests.
“It’s a little hidden oasis,” Nee said. “It’s a peaceful place where you’re away from the hustle and bustle.”
It is different from other types of places. This is not a barn, a church, a park or a farm. It is also easy to decorate with different styles.
“You can make it as elegant or as rustic as you want,” Nee said. “It’s amazing what you can transform it into.”
Weddings have something in common. They are held just a few steps from the front door of her home.
This means Nee offers a very personal touch as an on-site wedding coordinator. She lent out paper plates, table cloths and other kitchen items when needed.
“At weddings, people forget things,” she said. “I have everything almost close at hand.”
On the days of the wedding, Nee tries to stay away. But usually they invite her to cake or dancing or the whole ceremony.
“I don’t even know the couples and I’m crying,” she said. “You see their dreams come true and you feel like you have to be a part of it.”
Indeed, they become part of something Nee has built.
“I put my heart and soul into it,” she said.
It started as a host mother who raised five children here. Nee now welcomes 12 grandchildren for the holidays. This is where she sits in the morning to drink coffee and find her “peace”. Her daughter will be married there next year.
Nee, who is 62, still works at the diner. She hopes to one day take Casa Coyote to a place where it can be her full-time job.
“I don’t want to be a 65-year-old waitress,” Nee said. “I want to get out of my house and that’s it.”
Here Nee sees 40 years of his past. And here she sees her future.