This Saturday, December 10, from 10 am to 2 pm, the Empire Ranch Foundation welcomes guests to its annual Christmas at the Empire Ranch event in Sonoita. The four hours of festivities include time to stroll, marvel at the decorated Empire Ranch House, sip a bit of holiday cheer, and engage in retail therapy shopping for unique, cowboy-esque gifts. A $10 parking donation per vehicle is requested.
Come for the fun
Musical entertainment is by Permafrost Road with John Adams & Ken Brown (fiddle, guitar & vocals).
- Share your wish list with Santa & Mrs. Claus
- Docent Tours at 10:30, 11:30, and 12:30– gather at the Visitor Contact Station Front Porch
- Visit the Tack Room and talk to experts about ranching tools/equipment
- Groundwork horse training demonstrations will be done by Regi Richter, Arizona Horseman’s Challenge Participant
- 50/50 Raffle
- Make & Take Ornaments
- Enjoy cookies and candies provided by ERF Board members and volunteers
- Visit the ERF Outreach Tent, the many vendors & the ERF nonprofit partners
Be cowboy/cowgirl ready for a trail ride
Horse-loving visitors may choose to book a 45-minute trail ride for $40. Riders must be age 8 or older, 18 years old and younger must be accompanied by an adult. The first ride begins at 10:30 am, with the last ride starting at 2:30 pm. Spaces are limited and may not be available on the day of the event. Click here to reserve your space.
Dress for success
Think about dressing for success as you get ready to visit the Empire Ranch and its vast Arizona outdoors. It’s a good time to choose cowboy or riding boots over sandals and sneakers, at least close-toed, leather shoes versus soft slip-on versions, or flip-flops. Exposed human tootsies are no match for the rock-hard hooves of a horse that does not mean to (but could) step on you.
Fingers crossed for a weekend weather forecast of beautiful temps for the second Saturday in December. Dress in layers, drink water regularly, and add sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to your ranch-visiting gear too - that way you only return home with horse kisses, myriad cellphone pics, and happy memories, versus a sunburn, dry eyeballs, and a wind-chapped face and a dehydrated body.
Directions from Tucson
Go east on I-10 and exit at Route 83 (scenic highway)
Proceed south on Route 83 approximately 18 miles to the paved road on your left between milepost 40 and 39. Watch for the brown Historic Empire Ranch sign on the right side of the highway.
Turn east (left) onto the paved road and follow for 3 miles to the Empire Ranch House on your left.
Directions from Sonoita
Go north on Route 83 for 6.6 miles, to the paved road on your right between mileposts 39 and 40. Watch for the brown Historic Empire Ranch sign on the right side of the highway.
Turn east (right) onto the paved road and follow for 3 miles to the Empire Ranch House on your left.
The historic Empire Ranch has been a working cattle ranch for 140 years. Its rich history includes successive ownership by two prominent ranching families, two corporations, and finally by the federal government on behalf of the general public. Its history is summarized in this 18-minute video presentation on the history of the Empire Ranch from its founding in 1876 to present-day efforts by the Empire Ranch Foundation and the Bureau of Land Management to protect and preserve historic buildings.
Arizona’s Empire Ranch: A Prominent Past and Promising Future
In 1988 the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acquired for public use and preservation the lands that now form Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, including the intact buildings and much of the historic Empire Ranch land holdings whose founding dates to the 1870s.
In 1997, a group of private citizens formed the Empire Ranch Foundation as a volunteer 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
Working in partnership with the BLM, the mission of the Foundation is “To protect, restore and sustain the Empire Ranch historical buildings and landscape as an outstanding western heritage education center.”
The Foundation, in partnership with the BLM, provides funds and organizes volunteers to support and complete numerous preservation projects and educational activities at Empire Ranch.
The Empire Ranch Foundation is managed by a 15-member volunteer Board of Directors. Its 2021-2022 leadership includes Faith Boice McCabe, president, Marti Conroy, vice president, Jean Olmsted, secretary, and Christine Haaksma, treasurer.
The Empire Ranch Foundation has many events and volunteer opportunities during the year. Be sure to follow its activities on Facebook and sign up for its informative newsletter on the website.
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