SADDLE UP WESTERN STYLE

The Benefits of Meeting at a Guest Ranch

By Susan Bejeckian

Providing a rustic backdrop for a wide range of corporate retreats and special group

events are fast becoming popular meeting venues because of their uniqueness and versatility.

From Western barbecues to participatory rodeos, a multitude of choices abound for the

meeting attendees amid the great Western outdoors. Friendly hospitality, wide-open landscapes

and an unhurried pace all are attractive meeting components whether it be for a small

conference for ten people or larger groups of 150.

Most conference service directors at various guest ranches throughout the west

agree that the benefits of holding their meeting on a ranch are many.

Guest ranches:

* Afford a remote scenic atmosphere among flora and fauna

* Allow for fresh air and wide open spaces as an option

* Facilitate a social environment with healthy diversions such as horseback riding, tennis,

golf, fly-fishing, hiking and mountain biking

* Provide a television and telephone-free guestroom environment

* Offer Western alternatives to typical break-out sessions

* Stimulate productivity because of fewer distractions

"Our goal is to bring the great Western outdoors to meeting attendees and create an

environment that stimulates more creative thinking," said General Manager David Lautensack

of The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, a 10,000-acre working cattle ranch nestled in the heart

of the Santa Ynez wine country.

An advantage to meeting at a guest ranch is that groups need not be confined to

traditional meeting spaces. Meeting attendees want a departure from the traditional meeting

spaces and the ranch can arrange for a multitude of venues. Outdoor conference areas at The

Alisal include a picturesque lakefront deck, the historic Adobe Camp, poolside pavilion and

serene creekside garden.

If meeting indoors is on the agenda, locations such as the Alisal Guest Ranch have become

sought after executive retreats. With 6,000 sq. ft. of diverse meeting space, The Alisal is a

relaxing and productive experience for group meetings and corporate retreats, according to

Lautensack.

The intimate Library (Actor Clark Gable exchanged wedding vows here to Lady Ashley)

features residential living-room style seating, a cozy woodburning fireplace and private bar.

Ideal for larger meetings, the handsome 2,800 sq. ft. Sycamore Room, seating 150, is fashioned

with high-beamed ceilings, expansive windows facing the great outdoors and a large stone hearth

with wood mantle. The Western-themed Cottonwood Room is well appointed with hardwood

floors, a Navajo-style painted ceiling and allows for plenty of natural light. All meeting space

is well equipped with the most current audio-visual equipment.

Many ranches feature authentic Western rodeo arenas where attendees can gather

for team penning or to watch wranglers show off their barrel racing and calf roping skills.

Other diversions include golf, tennis, volleyball, swimming, boating and cross country

and mountain biking. To foster team building and friendly competition, a wide variety of games

can be arranged fishing derbies to mini-olympic events.

Adventure-based team building with low element challenge course activities are also

a draw at The Alisal. "Triangle Tension Traverse" and "Team Wall" are among the many

low element activities offered to meeting goers. By October, 1998, the ranch will add a high

elements challenge course with a host of activities including "Multi-Vine," "Pamper Pole,"

"Giant's Ladder," and "Zip Line."

And if the recreation alone is not enough to spur meeting planners to book a meeting at

a ranch, then a hearty ranch breakfast and one of several authentic Western barbecues will.

Meeting goers can opt for a morning horseback or haywagon ride to savor a full ranch

breakfast around the campfire with buttermilk flapjacks, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and

much more.

At The Alisal ranch breakfast, guests enjoy cowboy poetry by a resident wrangler and

a singing cowboy on guitar.

Themed dinners include a Western saloon night and traditional Western BBQ dinner.

At The Alisal, groups can also relax over winemaker dinners hosted by the vintners

themselves at some of the area's most celebrated wineries.

Back at the ranch, guests enjoy frontier-sized portions of juicy barbecued steaks and ribs,

succulent chicken and fresh catch of the day, accompanied by live Country Western music and

optional line dancing with instructors.

For meeting planners arranging incentive trips for their sales forces, they can celebrate

the harvest this October by booking the new Cuvee de Alisal package. The Alisal Guest Ranch

And Resort package offers two nights of accommodations in a deluxe suite, a wine and cheese

basket upon arrival, "Pinot To Go" gourmet picnic baskets, bicycles to tour the area's wine

region, a horseback ride and breakfast and dinner daily.

Whether planning a casual and relaxed event or arranging a lavish formal meeting with

gourmet grub, meeting planners discover the splendor of the great outdoors and the endless

possibilities by meeting at a guest ranch.

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