Historic party planned

It's a party 150 years in the making.

On Thursday, June 15, Historic O'Keefe Ranch will celebrate turning 150, making it two weeks older than the country it resides in.

Staff, board of directors, students, local dignitaries and visitors to the ranch will reminisce on the past and reflect on the impact of all the families who made the North Okanagan home as a result of Cornelius O’Keefe’s vision for the future.

O’Keefe heard about the Cariboo gold rush and hoped to strike it rich. Years later, O’Keefe found himself accumulating wealth not through gold mining, but through selling cattle to the gold miners and to workers of the Canadian Pacific Railroad.

In June 1867, Cornelius and his two partners, Thomas Wood and Thomas Greenhow, decided to pre-empt ranch land in the Okanagan. Two weeks later, thousands of kilometers away, Canadian Confederation was solidified. 

The first decades of the 20th century saw an economic downturn throughout Canada, and the O’Keefe Ranch suffered as well. In 1914, when the Great War broke out, three O’Keefe sons and a grandson joined the fight — two of whom did not come home. 

The ranch became a historic site in 1967 with buildings open to the public to learn more about the O’Keefe story.

The 50-acre site features a museum, numerous historic buildings, rare breed animals and a collection of more than 7,000 artifacts.

“It is important to understand our history and culture, where we came from, the people that built a foundation in Canada, B.C. and the Okanagan. The O’Keefe Ranch does just that, through education and experiences that help us all to remember the importance of the past,” said Glen Taylor, general manager

The O’Keefe Ranch is also home to the North Okanagan Model Railroaders Association, North Okanagan Therapeutic Riding Association and Spallumcheen Pioneer Power Club.

One of the goals of the ranch moving forward will be to expand the story to include the Okanagan First Nations, who have inhabited this land for much longer than 150 years.

On June 15, the ranch is holding an event to recognize the 150th anniversary with a barbecue lunch, speeches by local dignitaries, a performance by the Skeetschestn Drum Group, tractor rides and birthday cake, of course.

The public is invited to attend from noon to 2 p.m., regular admission rates apply. The ranch is planning larger festivities to take place this summer at the upcoming Family Days July 23 and August 20.

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