After hosting countless celebrations, a popular Sussex County wedding venue is the one doing the celebrating this year, toasting to a century at Perona Farms.
ANDOVER – After hosting countless celebrations, a popular Sussex County wedding venue is the one doing the celebrating this year, toasting to a century at Perona Farms.
Founded five generations ago in 1917, the 60-acre farm can serve about 51,000 guests each year in more than 300 events, mostly weddings.
Emil and Angiolina Perona first purchased the 260-acre dairy farm in 1917 and began taking in boarders to supplement their income. Emil’s brother, John, owned El Morocco, a popular Mahattan club, and sent guests to the farm as a getaway.
The boarding house eventually became a restaurant and later a wedding venue. Some of Perona Farms’ notable early visitors included Jimmy Durante, Errol Flynn, Ethel Merman, Peter Lorre, Helen Hayes and Joe DiMaggio. They’ve since welcomed Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and catered events for Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan.
Maurice DeBergh first visited the farm as a guest, and later married the Peronas’ daughter, Aida in 1932. Their daughter, Maureen, would later marry Victor Avondoglio, whose family continues to run the Perona Farms today.
“As long as I can remember, we have had a real family atmosphere and made an effort to personally know each of our guests,” Victor Avondoglio said. “Many of those guests over the years became great friends.”
Currently, the fourth generation, Mark, Wade, and Kirk Avondoglio with Tracey Ivaldi, lead the family business. Two members of the fifth generation, Bryant and Marley Avondoglio, have recently joined the team as well.
“We conduct business every day with great pride knowing the tremendous legacy our ancestors left us,” Tracey Ivaldi said.
While the size and scope of Perona Farms has grown from when it was a one table boarding house, the family tradition remains intact with many of the Avondoglios continuing to live in homes on the property.
Weddings and events can accommodate 30 to 300 guests, and are primarily held in three spaces, the Barn, the Venetian, and the Florentine. Ceremonies can be held at more than half a dozen locations on the property, from the apple orchard to the island on Perona Lake.
The Venetian ballroom and Florentine courtyard cover 55,000 square feet, including outdoor areas. The Venetian Room at its center is the oldest building on the property, built in the 1920s. The barn, formerly home to 100 dairy cows when it was built in the 1930s, is now a luxury rustic event space.
“Each weekend at the barn alone we have four weddings booked, Thursday through Sunday,” Bryant Avondoglio said.
Abbey and Allie Arwady of Morristown had their wedding ceremony and reception in the last November.
“Before we even got engaged we booked Perona Farms. We had heard from a bunch of different people about the farm and really wanted a rustic wedding,” Abbey Arwady said. “It was the most beautiful day of our lives, so elegant and natural. Away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of New Jersey, it was so intimate, kind of a throwback.
The Arwadys said they felt very comfortable as a same sex couple at Perona Farms.
“We felt very welcome,” Allie Arwady said. “For a business that’s been around for 100 years, that they can stick to their traditions but still evolve in that way is really great.”
Events at Perona Farms feature seasonal menus, which use produce and herbs direct from a 60 by 30 foot hydroponic greenhouse behind the main building. There are also beehives on the roof to collect honey.
“There’s so much competition, you have to keep evolving,” Mark Avondoglio said. “Every seven years we have to come up with new concepts, new ideas.”
“We do as much as we possibly can ourselves, in-house,” Wade Avondoglio said. “Whoever is the best fit for a job does it.”
“But we can only do so much ourselves,” Bryant Avondoglio. “It’s about the whole team here. This is a people business, and we couldn’t do what we do without a really good team.”
Ruth Steelman has worked at Perona Farms for 35 years. She is one of more than 100 employees.
“They’re good people to work for,” Steelman said. “No matter what, they’re here for you.”
Perona Farms also hosts Sunday Brunch every weekend.
“First brunch in the state,” Wade Avondoglio said. “Today it’s the best brunch in the state.”
The brunch open to the public from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays, with the last seating at 1:30 p.m. The buffet-style brunch is $31.95 for adults and $9.95 for children under 12. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 973-729-6161.
Perona Farms is located at 350 Andover Sparta Road in Andover.
Go to https://www.peronafarms.com/ for more information, to schedule a visit, or book an event.