The New Year is in full swing and dude ranches across the country are preparing for the 89th annual Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA) convention, to be held January 21-25, 2015 in Tucson, Az. at DRA-accredited Tanque Verde Ranch. More than 60 member ranches, as well as many associate members and vendors, are expected to attend this year’s event to exchange ideas about how to continue exceeding the highest standards within the dude ranching industry, promoting the Western ranch vacation and preserving parks, forests and wildlife.
Created in 1926, the DRA is now the official governing body of the West’s Dude Ranch industry and was founded to preserve, protect and promote the unique experience and identity of a dude ranch vacation: the original all-inclusive vacation destination. The association is currently made up of nearly 100 guest ranch members, all of which have passed the rigorous two-year inspection and approval process and are current members of the DRA. Members represent a broad spectrum of guest ranches across North America, ranging from rustic, no-frills working ranches to luxury resort-style ranches offering five-star cuisine and spa treatments.
The first official DRA meeting was held in late September 1926 and attended by many ranchers, railroad officials, and even national park officials. Initial objectives included standardizing practices, and discussing transportation and proper care of guests. Over the years, public vacation expectations have shifted and the DRA and its member ranches have evolved their experiences to fit with changing times.
New options from multi-day children’s camps and a wide range of extreme outdoor adventures to themed adult weekends and meditative spa treatments are now offered at many ranches. 2015’s four-day conference will feature numerous seminars related to the various aspects of the dude ranching and hospitality industries such as new vendor introductions, marketing initiatives and risk management.
The DRA has scheduled an impressive line-up of speakers for this year’s convention, including Maclaren Latta, VP Consumer Insights, Mercury CSC; Brandon Lake and Chip Broyles, Founders of Digital Waivers; Tracey Knutson, Founder of Knutson and Associates; Dr. Allan J. Hamilton, Chief of Neurosurgery, University of Arizona; David L. Brown, Executive Director of American Outdoors Association; Kirk Weisler, Chief Morale Officer and motivational speaker; and Patricia McCauley, President & CEO of Insideout Solutions. While the core values and horsemanship remain, DRA members are proud to share their experiences and innovative ideas at the annual convention each year.
True to the spirit of authentic Western hospitality, the convention’s programming includes plenty of opportunities for fun, with live musical entertainment from the 2 Lazy 2 Ranch band, a 9-hole scramble golf tournament and Steve Shaw’s Famous Pigeon Rolling Contest, featuring a special breed of pigeons that roll and somersault through the air, to benefit the Educational Trust. The convention will also host the annual Dude Ranchers’ Educational Trust Dinner and Auction, which seeks to preserve the history of Dude Ranching through a museum, archives and scholarships. The scholarships are granted to students who want to pursue a career that will enhance the dude ranch industry in a broad area of subjects, such as hospitality, horse shoeing, marketing or culinary school.
Tanque Verde Ranch is one of America’s old time cattle and guest ranches, nestled amongst the Rincon Mountains and adjacent to Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest in Arizona. Set amidst 60,000 acres of Tucson’s most breathtaking desert landscapes, Tanque Verde Ranch offers a variety of unique activities to enhance travelers’ ranch vacations. Guests can choose from horseback riding, guided hiking and biking, swimming, dancing and fishing, or relaxing with a full host of spa treatments.
So stay tuned and be sure to check back for an update as we celebrate the best of Western hospitality!