Each year, dude ranch owners, managers, and employees gather together to learn from industry professionals, network with each other, and attend educational forums. It is four days of cowboys and cowgirls from across the United States and Canada learning and having a bit of fun together.
The Dude Ranchers' Association (DRA) was founded in 1926, as a means of promoting the dude ranch industry and ensuring the satisfaction of guests visiting ranches. The organization was established by a group of ranchers who recognized the potential for a vacation experience that combined the traditional western lifestyle with the comforts of a resort. It is one of the longest-standing trade associations in the United States and will celebrate its 100th year of promoting dude ranches in 2026.
The DRA has grown to include member ranches in many western states and Canada. Throughout its nearly 100 years, the association's mission remains consistent; to promote the dude ranch experience and maintain the highest standards of operation among its member ranches.
The DRA works to promote the dude ranch industry, working with travel agents, tour operators, and media to showcase the unique experiences that dude ranches offer. They also have educational resources and networking opportunities for member ranches to improve their operations.
One of the resources provided by the DRA is the annual convention. The Dude Ranchers' Association convention is an annual event organized by the association for its members. The convention is attended by representatives from member ranches, industry professionals, and a diverse group of vendors who partner with ranches.
The convention creates an amazing opportunity for members to come together and share ideas, network, learn about new developments in the dude ranch industry and gain valuable insights. The program typically includes educational workshops, panel discussions, keynote speakers, and social events and activities.
The convention also includes the annual meeting, where the association members will elect the board of directors. This year, the 97th Dude Ranch Association Convention was held in Coeur d Alene, Idaho at the Coeur d Alene Resort. Those of us from Western Pleasure Guest Ranch were proud and honored to watch as our own, Janice Schoonover, was elected President of the Dude Ranchers' Association. Several members of our ranch team joined us one evening for the President's Banquet to surprise Janice and show support for an amazing woman and a much-loved boss. Janice's acceptance speech was heartfelt, genuine, and inspiring; a true reflection of her love for and dedication to the dude ranch industry. She was presented with the DRA President's buckle, which is passed from President to President and has inscribed on the back the names of all past presidents. The buckle was presented by Jerry Helmicki of the Bar Lazy J Ranch, the outgoing President of the DRA.
The 97th Dude Ranch Association Convention was once again a great opportunity for members to learn about the latest industry trends, best practices, and how to improve their operations. We had the opportunity to reconnect and network with other dude ranch owners and managers as well as other industry professionals. Those of us from Western Pleasure Guest Ranch were honored that Janice's ongoing passion and commitment to the dude ranch industry was recognized in her election to the role of President of this great association.