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Guest Ranch Keeps Cooking Up New Products

What happens when a cowboy meets a princess? You get the perfect combination of rustic and refined. That’s the rationale behind the Rocking R Guest Ranch near Strathmore where western adventures and country chic go hand-in-hand.

For over a decade, Rocking R has steadily grown its offerings from horseback riding and fly fishing packages to luxury B&B cabins, spa services, cultural offerings like dinner theatre and museums, and most recently, elegant country weddings.

Owners Terri and Marvin Kinsman credit a big part of their success to their partnerships with other tourism entrepreneurs and deep connections to their community.

“It’s important for tourism operators to get involved in the community in which they do business,” says Terri Kinsman, who is president of the Strathmore Chamber of Commerce and sits on the board of Canadian Badlands Tourism. “The relationship is good for both.”

City Meets Country

Terri was a city girl who was terrified of horses when she met Marvin, a homegrown Alberta cowboy. He convinced her to move to the country and they bought a ranch near Strathmore with a beautiful view of Eagle Lake and the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

“He fell in love with the barn and I was blown away by the stunning sunsets,” she says.

The couple both had full-time jobs in the oil patch, but started offering equestrian adventures on the weekends. In 2006, they built two beautifully appointed cabins and went into the bed and breakfast business.

“We offer our guests an authentic cowboy cultural experience, but with a real luxury component,” says Kinsman. “After a few hours out on the trail, people appreciate a hot tub, beautiful linens and furnishings, and a stunning view to enjoy with a glass of wine.”

Rocking R Guest Ranch also partners with a host of tourism operators in the area, including fishing outfitters, massage therapists, Rosebud Dinner Theatre, Royal Tyrrell Museum and even the Calgary Stampede, where Marvin – who works there every year– provides a behind-the-scenes view.

Cooking Up New Products

In July 2015, Rocking R added weddings to its long list of offerings, building a permanent white wedding tent with wooden dance floor, commercial kitchen and washrooms.

They teamed up with award-winning Calgary chef Judy Wood, owner of Meez Cuisine and Catering, to offer gourmet country-style wedding dinners.

“We had four weddings last year, have booked eight already for this summer and we even have some bookings for 2017,” says Kinsman.

Next on the list are plans to work with Wood to offer cooking classes for groups of couples staying at the ranch. “Culinary tourism is a growing trend in travel and Chef Judy is renowned for her teaching as well as her cooking, so it seemed a natural fit.”

Industry Connections

Kinsman says Rocking R’s ongoing relationship with Travel Alberta has been very productive in growing their business. They attend tourism seminars and conventions and rely on advice and support from regional reps.

“When I retired from my full time job, I really immersed myself in the tourism world. We’ve learned a great deal about effective marketing and it’s been a huge help to us.”

After recently completing her second year of Travel Alberta’s Canada’s West Marketplace Scholarship Program, Kinsman is now exploring opportunities to connect with the growing tourism market for Asian English as a Second Language (ESL) students.

“They are really interested in cowboy culture and immersing students in the full experience – riding, western cuisine, campfires under a starry night sky,” she says. “And there’s a great opportunity to highlight the Canadian Badlands as a premiere destination.”

Rocking R Guest Ranch is in discussions with the Golden Hills School District, whose international student dormitory sits empty in the summer. The idea is that students and teachers would stay at the dormitory and ranch, get ESL instruction each day and then explore attractions like the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Atlas Coal Mine and Dinosaur Provincial Park.

“We’d also host wagon rides and western BBQ dinners at the ranch,” says Kinsman. “There are a number of Asian ESL tours that already come to the Rockies and Crowsnest Pass so I say let’s keep them in Alberta for three weeks instead of two!”

Check out Rocking R Guest Ranch’s business profile on travelalberta.com. Find out how to set up a profile for your own Alberta tourism business through ATIS, Travel Alberta’s free online marketing platform.

This is the fourth in a 12-part series on Alberta tourism success stories.

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