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Dames On The Range

This is definitely not our momma s social club. The slogan adopted by Alberta s Dames on the Range is about as straightforward as they are if you re expecting to come out to rural Alberta for crumpets and tea, think again.

What you re more likely to be doing is fixing fence, driving cattle through the foothills of Alberta, collecting sage for tea or eating barbecued ribs by a campfire.

Our guests have an authentic experience when they come here it s much more of an in-depth experience because they get all of us.

When Debbie Webster refers to all of us she s talking about the Dames on the Range, a marketing group that has formed in southwestern Alberta to promote what their rural businesses have to offer.

Consisting of 14 members, from B &B owners, to ranchers, outfitters, naturalists, artisans and retailers, the Dames on the Range is a unique breed of cowgirl that not only knows how to ride a horse and rope a calf, but can host a crew of visitors from France, Australia and England.

Our dames walk the land, are familiar with the landscape, celebrate their heritage, honour their predecessors by preserving the landscape I mean we know it, and we take an active role in identifying what is actually happening on our landscape.

Dame Ginny Donahue of Sierra West Cabins and Ranch Vacations, a working ranch near Lundbreck, Alberta, agrees that the women of

this group are a unique breed who take pride in living off the land and showing others what natural wonders lie in southern Alberta.

Rather than just a cowboy s wife, I m a dame on the range, said Donahue. A dame on the range entitles me to being something special, it s a special kind of cowgirl.

The Dames on the Range organization was the brainchild of Webster, owner of Chimney Rock B &B, located west of Nanton, Alberta. She pitched the idea to a few associates in 2007 and by 2008, the dames launched their first tour, attracting a group of women for several days of horseback riding, wagon rides, campfire cookouts and living the life of an authentic Albertan cowgirl.

Debbie recalls one of those first guests exclaiming that she now understood what undisturbed native fescue rangeland was, which Webster took as an enormous gift of praise.

If we want people to visit us and be advocates for looking after our landscape, they have to come here and understand how we re managing it and how we re preserving the largest tract of native fescue rangeland in the world.

While protecting the natural setting of the foothills is one mission of the Dames, entertaining guests from around the world is an equally important calling. With hundreds of visitors now booking holidays through the Dames on the Range website, this group of eager cowgirls has come up with travel packages that appeal to more than just women and are being geared towards families and groups. Donahue said working as a team allows the Dames to offer a variety of activity options to each visitor during any given tour.

The biggest thing that has come from this is the awareness of women out in the rural areas who are in business and the partnerships we can form together.

It s also all about cross-promoting and making the almighty buck go further.

Webster is the central booking agent for the 14 Dames on the Range, customizing packages to suit the needs of travellers and bringing in other dames, like cowboy poets, artists and performers, when needed.

I ve realized there are a lot of us out there, said Webster, a farm girl who became a career banker in Calgary before marrying Tony Webster and becoming a Dame on the Range. I can t tell you how many women come up to us and say, that s so cool and fun and then they start telling me about themselves and I say, you sound like you could be a dame on the range.

While the official Dames on the Range have experiences to offer to visitors, Webster said the only prerequisite for being a true dame is that you have done some living and you are eager to share those experiences with someone.

For more information on the Dames on the Range or to sign up for the Not our momma s social club newsletter, visit www.damesontherange.ca or call (403) 646-0151.

ChristaleeFroesewritesfromMontmartre, Sask.

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Debbie recalls one of those first guests exclaiming that she now understood what undisturbed native fescue rangeland was

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Christalee Froese writes from Montmartre, Sask.

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