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A Joyful Kickoff to the Season of Giving

Giving Thanks

Before thanks have even been given in the traditional American way, we’re giving thanks to our community through a local tradition. This Friday and Saturday, we will host the 4th annual Granite County Festival of Trees in our bedecked Buckle Barn. Though Santa doesn’t make his appearance for another month and a half, it’s fair to say our elves are busy as ever preparing for this charity event. Read on to garner the recipe for our Bar Manager’s wassail-worthy mulled wine. 

17 Christmas trees lit up the Buckle Barn before the Festival of Trees gala auction
“It’s a Wonderful Life” plays in the Buckle Barn before the 2015 Festival of Trees Gala Auction.

Joy in Montana, Joy to the World

The Granite County Festival of Trees is the only major fundraiser for the local non-profit organization, the Granite County Medical Foundation. Since the event’s inception, The Ranch has been a sponsor, and for the last three years we’ve served as angel sponsor and host. The first year, the event raised over $10,000 and last year’s event it raised $35,000 for local health projects.

The outside view of the Buckle Barn after the 2015 Granite County Festival of Trees
Peeking into the windows of the Buckle Barn before the 2015 Gala Auction. 

These projects have ranged from buying new beds for the long-term care and acute care patients at our local medical center to supplying AEDs to local law enforcement vehicles and to helping provide car seat checks and bike helmets to the area’s youth. When you live in a remote mountain environment, you truly appreciate emergency and preventive health services that help your staff, family, friends and neighbors.


Mercantile artisan, Pat Siler of Philipsburg’s Back Creek Pottery, created commemorative ornaments for the event. 

In addition to the Festival of Trees, The Ranch also hosts our hometown’s Granite High School prom and supports a long list of charity projects throughout the year. We believe one of the most important parts of our commitment to sustainability is giving back to local organizations and supporting local businesses and artisans.

“Our whole Ranch team truly enjoys helping to produce this community event. We are proud of our angel sponsorship and look forward to our participation every year. Our group coordinators and culinary team are very talented and create memorable family reunions, corporate retreats and weddings throughout the year. But this greatly anticipated event is extra special because it brings our community together for a wonderful cause and represents the official start to The Ranch’s holiday season celebrations.” ~Steve Shotsberger, General Manager

We are happy to be recognized for our giving and sustainability initiatives through our National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World affiliation, but these charity projects also signify a personal connection to many of our employees, who volunteer their time to serve on local non-profit boards, volunteer for projects and even work as Ski Patrol or volunteer fire fighters to ensure the safety and health of local residents.


The Art of Entertaining

Our groups and events team, including our Relais & Châteaux culinary and beverage team, is leading the charge for the event on our end. But the effort will include help from most Ranch departments. Almost 30 people are volunteering their time to make sure it goes off without a hitch, and many others will be attending Saturday’s Gala Auction as part of the community.

Our groups and events team produces all of our special events, from seasonal celebrations, like Christmas and New Years, to weddings, reunions and other milestones. This Festival falls on the heels of some exceptional autumn events, including our Autumn Harvest Celebration featuring a special performance by LeAnn Rimes.


A table setting at this year’s Autumn Harvest Dinner. Photo by Kate DeMello.

Last year, this department was even featured in Relais & Châteaux’s new book, “The Art of Entertaining.” Our sponsorship includes event coordination and staffing, in addition to providing the venue and hors d’oeuvres—basically everything that’s needed to ensure a large event’s success.


A private birthday celebration on the Bikini Beach dock. Photo by Kate DeMello.

Maria Conn, Chair for the Granite County Medical Foundation said, “We are blessed to have the support of over 20 local businesses and over 70 talented decorators who give time, money and creativity to make these trees and our auction a success. But, hosting a large event like this has so many working parts. We are so grateful to have the support of the professionals at The Ranch at Rock Creek. Every step of the way, we know they have thought of every last detail, and they have the safety and enjoyment of our community attendees in mind in all they do.”

The Festival of Trees involves two large events, a Decorator’s Night on Friday, November 10, where 15 decorator teams gather to design their one-of-a kind-trees, and the Gala Auction on Saturday, November 11. On Friday, the decorators will be joined by Granite County Medical Center’s long-term care residents. Though the decorators are busy bringing their carefully-planned visions to reality, it is a jubilant environment filled with food, carols and a visit from Santa. The residents enjoy being part of such a bustling, joyful event that harkens back to their own family celebrations.

Hosting the Granite County Festival of Trees is one of our giving initiatives that supports local healthcare
The 2016 Festival Grove after Decorator’s Night. 

At the end of the night, the Buckle Barn glows with these gorgeous trees. We know this year’s grove will be exceptional, thanks to a sneak peek at the 2017 auction list.

Community members, sponsors and decorators join us for the Gala Auction on Saturday. Many arrive via free shuttle from local towns, so they can enjoy Executive Chef Josh Drage’s robust slate of first-class hors d’oeuvres and the cash bar, with drinks provided by local businesses, the Philipsburg Brewing Company and Snookies Mercantile & Wine Cellar.

A guest enjoys the impressive buffet of hors d'oeuvres during the 2015 Granite County Festival of Trees
The culinary team’s impressive spread at the 2015 Festival Gala Auction. 

The evening culminates in a thrilling live auction, led by a professional auctioneer. Attendees vote throughout the night and decorator teams can win recognition for Best Classic Tree, Most Original Tree and Best Theme Tree. Wish us luck, as The Ranch at Rock Creek will be engaged in a little friendly competition for these honors when we offer our own tree up for auction.


A Nordic Inspiration

In addition to our event planning and execution, we’ve also decorated a tree for the last four years. This year’s Festival theme is “Joy to the World: Christmas Around the Globe.” As a travel destination, the theme offered a fun convergence with our global travel community. However, we soon centered upon the ways we could reflect our area’s heritage, just as we do with our yearly winter cultural events, like the Nordic Bonfire. A Scandinavian theme was a perfect fit.


Groups & Events Lead Kate DeMello decorates our tree at the 2016 event. 

Our Ranch decorators also happen to be our groups and events team, Kate DeMello, Christina Wernikowski, Ashley Atkinson and Lauren Messmore—with invaluable help from many other members of The Ranch staff. The team has been busy handcrafting ornaments for weeks.


Groups & Events Team Member Ashley Atkinson crafts gnomes and twig stars for The Ranch’s Nordic-themed tree. 

Our tree description reads, “Travel to the world’s pristine and rugged Nordic lands. The glow of candlelight will light your snowy path as you discover nature’s beauty, handcrafted treasures and a tasting of house-made glögg (Swedish spiced wine). Includes a certificate for an all-inclusive two-night stay at The Ranch at Rock Creek, complete with all meals, beverages, guided outdoor activities & nightly luxury accommodations.”


Ashley Atkinson decorates our “The Mitten” themed-tree during the 2016 Decorator’s Night. 

Stay tuned for pictures of our tree, as well as highlights from the event itself on Instagram and Facebook. If you are anxious to plan your own holiday party and welcome friends and neighbors to your door for a hearty wassail, our Bar Manager Ned has proffered his glögg recipe to our online community. We hope it helps make the season merry and bright. We look forward to raising a glass with our neighbors on Saturday!


Nordic Glögg Recipe

The greeting and practice of “wassail” and the reply “drinkhail” meant “drink to good health” in the old Norse, and later Old English, traditions. So, this seemed like the perfect drink to greet visitors to our Nordic-clad tree. 

Wine mulls over an open flame at the Nordic Bonfire, one of The Ranch at Rock Creek's new winter experiences

On Saturday, visitors to The Ranch’s tree will be able to get into the spirit of a Nordic Christmas by tasting our Bar Manager Ned Derosier’s glögg (Swedish spiced wine) recipe. This winter warmer was a guest favorite at last winter’s Nordic Bonfire events, and now you can serve it up at your next holiday party.

Ingredients:
1.5 l red wine
750 ml Brandy
750 ml ruby port
2 cups sugar
Peels from one whole orange
10 cinnamon sticks
2 dozen cardamom pods
1 dozen cloves
2 cups dried cherries
1 cup each dark and light raisins
1 cup dried currants

Method:

  1. Add one cup of sugar, one cup of brandy and the orange peel to a saucepan.
  2. Simmer until you reach a syrup consistency. It is done when the syrup coats a spoon.
  3. Remove the orange peel.
  4. Pour the syrup into a larger saucepan.
  5. Open the cardamom pods.
  6. Add the wine, remaining sugar, spices, fruit and half the port to the saucepan.
  7. Simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.
  8. Pour the remaining brandy and port into the saucepan and remove from heat.
  9. Let the glögg cool overnight to let the flavors meld.
  10. Strain out the solids the next day.
  11. Reheat the glögg.
  12. Garnish with a cinnamon stick or orange peel and serve.


For details about The Ranch’s upcoming holiday celebrations, like Christmas and New Year’s, visit our seasonal celebrations page. It won’t be long before Christmas tree hunting begins and we begin decking The Ranch’s halls and accommodations.