Original Published on Jul 18, 2022 at 09:10
By KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The team at Grotto Gardens Family Fun Farm is continuing to introduce new and exciting experiences in the hopes of making others smile.
“It’s all about fun,” co-owner Dana Hassett told the News. “Every year we’re adding something and trying to reinvent ourselves (and) make it fun for everybody.”
Located just south of Maple Creek on Highway 21, Grotto Gardens was established by Hassett and husband Dan Sellinger in 2016 and has quickly become a destination for visitors of all ages.
A mix of educational farm, petting zoo, Saskatoon berry orchard, bakery and cafe, boutique and outdoor garden, Grotto Gardens offers a wide variety of activities and experiences – many of which cannot be found elsewhere in the region.
“When we first started (the business) we had a goat walk and people loved it,” Hassett said. “We would hear often that they’re coming back for their goat therapy.”
After hearing visitors’ positive feedback, Hassett began thinking of more unique opportunities she and her team could offer to engage with animals. After watching a video about an American goat yoga program, Hassett decided to establish a similar program at Grotto Gardens, a decision that received support from local individuals and organization, as well as Tourism Saskatchewan.
The program – the first of its kind in Canada – was an instant hit and is still popular with visitors.
“It just seemed like a natural progression,” said Hassett. “Goats are affectionate (and) people really love them.”
Running Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (registration strongly recommended), goat yoga follows a similar format as regular yoga; the only difference is 10 Nigerian Dwarf goats join participants as they stretch and breathe deeply.
“At first the goats are quite noisy and jumping about,” said Hassett. “But as the class progresses they might come over to your mat and lay down (or) if you’re doing a downward dog, they might jump up on your back.
“Just by nature, the Nigerian Drawf goat is small. They’re cuddly, they’re gentle and they’re just present.”
Seeing the level of joy the goats sparked in visitors inspired Hassett and her family to create similar programs, such as alpaca walks.
“The other day somebody I knew did the alpaca walk,” said Hassett. “And then after, she posted pictures and said it’s just another example of the 110 per cent we do. And that everything was perfect. That must means a lot, it does. Because we really do pour ourselves into it, and try to make Grotto Gardens great.”
“The biggest thing is we’re trying to make customers happy,” Taylor Zoethout, manager and Hassett’s son-in-law, said.
Happiness is evident as smiling visitors sit on the cafe’s veranda and chat over a slice of fresh Saskatoon berry pie, or stroll the grounds, marvelling at emus, sheep, pigs, peacocks and all other animals to call Grotto Gardens home.
Built as a tribute for Hassett and Sellinger’s late son Dean, the family is glad Grotto Gardens has become a source of such happiness.
With plans for new additions already in place, Hassett hopes to continue the legacy her and her family are creating.
For more information about Grotto Gardens – including how to register for activities and info about educational tours, private bookings, seasonal celebrations offered – call 306-662-3585, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday.
This item reprinted with permission from The News, Medicine Hat, Alberta