Sagehill Community Futures board, members, and business participants gathered on Wednesday, September 13 for its Annual General Meeting and Celebration. Along with the business of the Community Futures region, attendees met with local vendors, revelled in the plentiful door prizes and listened to an engaging presentation by the owners of Big Mur’s Tavern. The Grady family engineered this summers knock out effort to break a world record for most inflatable dinosaur costumes in one location, namely Dundurn.  

The business portion of the evening began with an address by Chairperson Floyd Lueke. Lueke stated that Sagehill’s Lending Program invested $572,300 over the year, creating an impact for 176 businesses. They continued to see growth in their advising services, training opportunities, and social media engagement. Virtual workshops and conferences such as the Recruitment and Retention Conference were met with such positive responses that they will continue in future years. Part two of the Recruitment and Retention Conference will take place at the Humboldt Legion Hall on October 17.  

Director Susan Wehage recognized her staff for their extraordinary contributions. Jenny Glessman received congratulations for 15 years of service, and Holly Marshak was noted as a key to the organization’s successful evolution. 

Sagehill also feted outgoing Board members Floyd Lueke, Patrice Boychuk – Kidd and Paul Kneeshaw, and also welcomed Kevin Grieman, Melissa Chegus and Alan Buryniuk to the Board for their term.  

Keynote speakers Gary and Sharon Grady chronicled their involvement in Big Mur’s Tavern in Dundurn. A family run business whose name pays homage to its former owner, Big Mur’s was like many small-town taverns, with a supportive local clientele and a limited pub food menu. The imaginative and spirited combination of Gary and Sharon gradually started taking things to a new level with an expanded menu, a wild auto and motorbike-based décor, and Gary’s trademark cheeky wit.  

The concept of pursuing a world record for something as esoteric as inflatable dinosaurs came out of that trademark “goofiness,” said Gary. 

“We just do fun, goofy stuff – that's what our day is, just being goofballs. And then we go to work.” 

From its initial spark, the event was propelled by social media. The posts that originally invited participation and comment went viral, and through the “digital telegraph”, with the help of influencers like the Saskatchewanderer, the Grady’s found they’d achieved a staggering outreach.  

“The Facebook posted that started with the dinosaur idea and getting the people going reached 280,000 people,” said Gary. 

That spontaneous approach carried right through to the day when 1163 dinosaur decked disciples descended on Dundurn to smash the previous record held by Portland, Oregon.  

“You don’t have to be experts. The morning of (the event), we started to panic,” Sharon recalled.  “At 6:30 in the morning we got up, we looked at each other and said we don’t know what we’re doing here. But with the help of our community and our friends, it went through and everybody said how well it was planned. And we laughed.” 

The couple had suggestions on how to leverage social media, the first and foremost being to grab viewers’ attention right away – be eye catching. 

“At a seminar, the speaker said the most important thing is to be eye catching within 1.5 seconds – if it doesn’t catch your eye in that time, people are scrolling.” 

The Grady’s also leveraged the support of their suppliers on the food, beverage and promotional merchandise side to help them out, and that’s a piece of advice they’d provide to any business owner – identify and access your supports. Ask for help. 

The town of Dundurn got a profile boost through local, national and even international press, but the long-term impact on the tavern’s business has been obvious.  

“It is a lot busier,” confessed Gary. “A lot of people say, ‘we saw it on the news – we want to check it out – it's really cool.’ We were at $385,000 (sales) in 2019, and at the end of this business year, we’re making $1.3 million.” 

Sharon said the clientele had shifted from local to new faces to greet at the door. 

It’s more than just a “lightning in a bottle” moment for Gary and Sharon though. Some post-Covid renovations to their deck and décor helped them to turn the corner. Gary maintained the uniqueness of your business is important, so those improvements can go along well with helping an enterprise stand out.  

Gary says the city of Drumheller may put up a challenge to the record even before the Grady’s have received their official certificate. If they do, Dundurn is poised to take it back. 

The Gradys stayed to visit and talk more about their experience and the strategies that business owners can employ to gain that competitive, and sometimes record-breaking advantage, they are looking for.  

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