News from the 2009 DRA Conference

I had a chance to chat with Colleen Hodson, Executive Director of The Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA) about their recent gathering in Arizona. The DRA is in its 83rd year, going strong since 1926. “The turnout was great ,” Hodson said. “You can’t go wrong in sunny Arizona in the middle of winter!”

And she told me that the host ranch, Tanque Verde, really “put on the dog” for the group. “We had everything from fire dancers to foot rodeos to country western dancing and live auctions,” Hodson explained.

When I asked what a foot rodeo was she explained that it was a lot of fun contests played on foot (no horses allowed). “You catch a chicken— blindfolded, put panties on a goat, throw a tomahawk,” she said, with a laugh.

The fun stuff loosened up the crowd before they got down to business, listening to important messages from speakers such as James Owen, author of Cowboy Ethics and a former hedge fund operator who “got tired of Wall Street and realized that if we all lived the way cowboys and dude ranchers live, we’d all be better off”.

A web guru “told us all how to better use the web—which is increasingly important,” Hodson contended. Later on, Bill Reynolds from the nonprofit Paragon Foundation spoke about land use and water rights, “an issue to many of our members”. Tracey Knutsen of Alaska spoke about adventure travel litigation and explained the importance of waivers and releases.

“We give out scholarships to those pursuing careers in our industry, and we teamed up with TROT (Theraputic Riding of Tucson) to auction off weeklong stays at dude ranches,” she said, noting that they raised well over $18,000 for the good cause.

And the group elected its new president: Russell True, of White Stallion Ranch, near Tucson. True spoke about how ranchers are going to have to “cooperate, collaborate, and find ways to work together to strenthen the DRA.” 

We’ll have an interview with the new DRA president in the coming weeks. Watch for it.


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