June 22. Two McAlister organizations received top tourism awards in Oklahoma.
Simply Country ranchers and organizers of the Dancing Rabbit music festival recently received the RedBud Awards, the state’s top tourism award given by the Oklahoma Tourism Industry Association.
“We are very proud of both of these groups for the work and commitment they show to McAlester and the support they give to our community,” said McAlester Tourism Director Billy Sumner. “I think these awards are another recognition of their hard work.”
Simply Country Ranch owners Lauren and Ben Denny said they are proud to have received the RedBud Award for Outstanding Agritourism Attraction for their ranch, which is designed to give people a fun farming experience.
“It’s really cool that we can be a part of this and the Dancing Bunny is there, so it just shows that Macalester is making a lot of noise,” said Lauren Denny. “McAlester is putting their name on the map and deservedly so because we have such a great community.”
The Dennys started the ranch last year after moving from Idaho to McAlester on land that has been in the family for about seven generations. The couple said they enjoy making things with their hands and seeing something grow from the fruits of their labor.
Last year, they launched the Fall Festival with the goal of holding a major event every few months to bring people together for a fun and educational experience.
Just a country ranch is popular on social media, with 610,000 followers on TikTok and more than 2,500 Facebook likes with videos of the ranch owners and animals.
“We really wanted to show the community and the whole country what farming really is,” Ben said on social media. “We wanted to show people how passionate farmers and ranchers really are and how they care about animals.”
The Dennys have stated that they want to continue the expansion with a country concert on September 30 during the fall festival, which will also include several seasonal traditions.
They also host tours, movie nights, a few events such as the recent “doughnuts for dads” for Father’s Day, and post more regularly on the ranch’s website and social media.
“We’re trying to take a little bit of everything and get feedback from the community about what they need, what they like, and just trying to fill some of those voids,” Lauren said. “We just want to do more and more and more.”
Blake Lynch, president of the music association Dancing Rabbit, said the organization is thrilled to receive the award for an outstanding new event.
“I think awards like this really help us get sponsors and put us on the platform for other events across the state,” Lynch said.
The Dancing Rabbit Music Festival kicked off in 2021 with shows in May, June and July featuring headliners Charlie Parr, John Fulbright and Band of Heathens, as well as supporting acts and a one-off fall show featuring Parker Millsap.
This year, the Dancing Bunny series of music festivals opened with a show on May 7, headlined by famous…