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Ever since the pandemic’s merciless onslaught, entertainment complexes and resorts alike have been struggling to provide safe alternatives to the concert and vacation experiences that consumers once took for granted.

But a respected Collin County attraction appears to have mastered such an endeavor.

Southfork Ranch, a 200-acre conference and event center based in Parker, Texas, has been offering drive-in concerts and social distance-friendly lodging packages to those itching to break their cabin fever. According to the complex’s general manager Janna Timm, audiences have been very receptive to these services. 

“People just want to do something [fun],” she says. “We’ve got this huge area that can do 200 pods, so we’ve got plenty of room… We can park 8,000 cars if we have to.”

Texas Flood / Courtesy of Vox Agency

On the live music front, Southfork Ranch has been partnering with promoters Paul Andrews Events and B3 Entertainment for what they have dubbed “The Southfork Ranch Fall Concert Series.” This weekly event, which has taken place every Friday since the beginning of September, kicked off with a live set by Beatlemania 64 and continued with other cover acts such as Texas Flood (Stevie Ray Vaughan) and Shameless (Garth Brooks).

The series is slated to conclude on Oct. 2 with The Texas Bluesman, a Blues Brothers tribute band. 

Prior to this, Southfork Ranch once again hosted KHYI 95.3’s Texas Music Revolution in late July, an event which featured drive-in performances from Chris Knight, Wade Bowen, Nikki Lane, Joshua Ray Walker and other country/Americana acts.

The property has also continued to rent its facilities for private use and has even made itself available for two food drives and four American Red Cross blood drives, all of which Timm has described as wildly successful. 

“Once [COVID-19] happened, I went into the mode of trying to do what we could do period,” she says. “Not to make money, but just to keep people busy and to do good for the community.” Still, money has astonishingly been all but an encumbrance to Southfork Ranch, even if the pandemic caused it to cease operations for over a month and therefore led to a temporary downsize. 

The cast of ‘Dallas’ attends the 30th Anniversary Reunion of the TV show ‘Dallas’ at Southfork Ranch on November 8, 2008 / CLS Digital Arts / Shutterstock.com

On the contrary, Timm says demand for use of the facilities has increased in the realm of hospitality, especially with the sale of the “Live and Dream Like a Ewing” package. This package gives patrons single-night access to the property’s Ewing Mansion, which was used as an integral location for both the original television series Dallas and its more recent TNT reboot. Guests who opt for this package get treated to a steak dinner and a breakfast by the mansion’s pool. 

“During the pandemic, we have been booking it like crazy,” Timm explains. “People are loving it, because it’s a staycation.”

Indeed, Southfork Ranch is enjoying something of an unlikely golden age thanks to the pandemic, and the complex is looking to expand its potential in the months to come. Timm has even discussed the imminent possibility of a holiday drive-thru experience, although she stressed that nothing is set in stone for it at this time. 

“I do have a couple of people I’m talking to about it, but I’m not sure enough of it that I can say it’s happening.”

Garrett Gravley

Garrett Gravley is a Dallas-based writer, journalist and music critic. His work has appeared in the Dallas Observer, D Magazine, and Central Track.