Vernon’s Historic O’Keefe Ranch has found the means to stay open for weekends through October and possibly for its operations in December, the ranch said Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. The ranch with more than 150 years of history has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. ((O’Keefe Ranch/Facebook)

Support keeps Vernon’s O’Keefe Ranch afloat through fall

The ranch hit hard by COVID-19 will stay open through October, possibly December

The curtains haven’t closed on the Historic O’Keefe Ranch’s 2020 season.

After announcing last month that its season would be cut short due to revenue losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the popular Vernon attraction has found enough money to stay open for weekends through October, and possibly for its operations in December.

“It’s been a rollercoaster of a year and the rollercoaster hasn’t stopped,” ranch management said in an email sent Thursday, Sept. 24.

The pandemic forced the ranch to reduce its activities due to restrictions on travel that have put a chill on the tourism industry.

But the ranch says support from the city and from the community through its Fill the Steer fundraiser have alleviated some of the resulting financial stress.

At its Sept. 14 meeting, Vernon city councillors voted to defer a $70,000 interest-free loan to the ranch and all annual property insurance recoveries between 2019 and 2021 until Dec. 31, 2022.

Vernon city Coun. Scott Anderson also put forward a notice of motion that could see the O’Keefe Ranch’s expected $50,000 2021 grant from the City of Vernon increased to a total of $125,000.

“We want to give a public thanks to the city for granting our requests,” said Bruce Cummings, chair of the ranch’s board of directors. “We have been contacted by the public, volunteers and the staff on ways to keep operations moving along. We need to make sure the ranch has enough funds to open again next season but we also understand the positive impact of keeping up momentum and keeping a presence in the community.”

Though the Field of Screams is not able to run this year due to COVID-19, the ranch will keep the family corn maze and some ranch activities open through October for admission by donation.

“With a large open space, the ranch can provide families a safe place to enjoy outdoor activities which may prove difficult in other settings this October,” the ranch said.

“The support received to keep the animals on site has ensured all the critters will remain and can be enjoyed by visitors in October. Ghost Tours will also be returning for some select dates in October.”

READ MORE: City provides financial relief for Vernon attraction

READ MORE: Pandemic derails CP Holiday Train

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
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