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Historic Spallumcheen ranch pumped for upcoming year of events

Members of the tourism community met at the ranch Thursday to discuss the year ahead
Dee Cristante of Okanagan Hospitality, Kris Fuller, executive director of the Vernon Winter Carnival Society, Josh Welter, executive director of the Sports and Culture Society, Hannah Lucich, tourism marketing coordinator with the City of Vernon, Karen Savill, visitor services coordinator with Tourism Vernon, Angie Ioakimidou, O’Keefe Ranch manager and Diane Llewelyn, guest experience coordinator at O’Keefe were among those who took part in a soiree at O’Keefe Ranch to discuss the upcoming year of events Thursday, March 30, 2023. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

The Historic O’Keefe Ranch in Spallumcheen is ready for an exciting year of events for the whole family.

The ranch hosted a soiree Thursday, March 30, with members of Vernon Tourism, Sports and Culture, the Vernon Winter Carnival, the Sports and Culture Society and the City of Vernon to discuss the year ahead for the ranch, and how the members of the different groups can help one another.

Diane Llewelyn-Jones, guest experience coordinator at the ranch, said the purpose of the meeting was to “recapture some of the magic” that was lost during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which severely constrained tourist attractions like the ranch, and to remind everyone in attendance that “we’re still here.”

“The purpose was just to reemphasize that the ranch has lasted a very long time, and there’s reasons for that,” Llewelyn-Jones said.

Among those at Thursday afternoon’s meeting were Dee Cristante, wedding and event specialist with Okanagan Hospitality, who works closely with the ranch; Kris Fuller, executive director of the Vernon Winter Carnival Society; Josh Welter, executive director of the non-profit Sports and Culture Society; Hannah Lucich, tourism and marketing coordinator with the City of Vernon; and Karen Savill, visitor services coordinator with Tourism Vernon.

Attendees were given a snapshot of the year ahead at O’Keefe Ranch, with highlights on the upcoming schedule from May 2023 to February 2024. Mother’s Day opening weekend and high tea will get the season started May 13-14. The ranch is also excited to offer goat yoga in May, June, July and August.

In June, people can celebrate Father’s Day weekend at the ranch June 17-18. There’s also a murder mystery event from June 16-17 and 23-24, and a Dance at the Ranch June 30.

July events kick off with a Canada Day celebration July 1, followed closely by the Vernon Cowboy and Rib Fest (which generated a lot of excitement around the table on Thursday) July 7-9. There will also be a “family day” celebration July 22.

In August, high tea takes place Aug. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30. A Cowboy Dinner Show will be at the ranch Aug. 4, 11, 18 and 25. There will also be another family day on Aug. 19.

September and October features a long list of events. A Vintage Tractor Pull and Quilt Show will take place (date TBD), and a murder mystery will run Sept. 15-16 and 22-23. Sept. 15 is Service Dog Day, and Family Daze in the Corn Maze runs a full month from Sept. 29 to Oct. 29. Ghost tours will also be on this time of year.

In December it’s a Victorian Christmas at the ranch from Dec. 2-3, 9-10 and 16-17. A Christmas Carol will delight guests Dec. 5-9 and 12-16.

Then in February 2024 it’s one of the ranch’s signature events, Winter Blues at the Ranch, part of the Vernon Winter Carnival, Feb. 3-4 and 10-11. There will also be Blues Night later that month.

2022 attendance stats show the ranch was busiest in October, with 5,368 visitors in the month. That’s followed by July, which saw 3,309 visitors including 464 on Canada Day, 595 for the tractor pull event and 135 for kids daycares and camps. The next busiest month was August, with 2,394 visitors.

Llewelyn-Jones said the diversity of activities at the ranch is what stands out in the 2023-24 schedule.

“All the way from a high tea to a cowboy and rib fest, to a tractor pull to a cowboy dinner to a Mother’s Day … there’s just so many things that are happening,” she said. “We’re just so thankful to be part of the Vernon and Spallumcheen communities, I think that both of those communities are very pro history, very pro grassroots … and because of that we thrive.”

Already this year the ranch has indulged in fun for the kids. Last week during spring break it hosted a musical theatre camp for kids, which was well attended.

“This year the focus is to get the entire family out here … so that that generational experience happens,” Llewelyn-Jones said.

The ranch is currently closed for March and April, but Angie Ioakimidou, a manager at O’Keefe, says the hope for the upcoming season is to not have any down time at all.

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Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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