Posted by Leigh Hewer on Nov 02, 2021
Member Jack Schultz introduced Sherrilee Franks, Manager of O’Keefe Ranch. Sherrilee has been co-managing and managing the ranch for the past 4 years, previously a Member of the Board having started by volunteering at the ranch 11 years ago. Sherrilee has a background in property management and tourism which provides a strong foundation for her current roll.
We were provided with a passionate update on some of the challenges faced by O’Keefe Ranch during COVID-19. The Ranch was closed through the majority of the 2020 season and opened on a limited basis Mother’s Day 2021. Some of the changes in 2021 included volunteers/employees in shops, wool spinners etc being dressed in period costume thereby providing a “living history” and as opposed to fixed price admission, it was changed to donation with suggested $. These changes have worked well.
The next challenge impacting the ranch was the heat wave followed by the forest fires. Sherrilee stated ranch staff were fantastic and had to adapt to the various challenges before them. The Ranch became an evacuation center and had over 1,000 animals on site and well as numerous families who had been evacuated from various locations. They estimate that approximately 80-90% of those folks have lost their homes, ranch staff helped where they felt most comfortable.  The Ranch was very well supported by local residences that showed up with feed and support items for the people and animals. The fires continued to grow and the Ranch itself had to be evacuated along with all the animals. This was achieved with the support of staff and an unknown amount of volunteers showing up to help.
Now what to do? The Ranch was considering its options and an employee suggestion they “Take the Ranch on the Road” and this is what they did. In late August and September they took their staff to where the people where to share the O’Keefe Ranch Story and history.
For O’Keefe Ranch: COVID=Resilient.
With COVID and all the challenges they have overcome there are exciting things planned. December offers the Victorian Christmas Dec 4-19 on the 1st 3 weekends, A Christmas Carol Dec 7-18. In addition they are working on events in conjunction with 2022 Vernon Winter Carnival as well as a premier event around Mother’s Day 2022 titled 100 Years of Fashion. Details are posted on their website. https://www.okeeferanch.ca/