Tucked away on the outskirts of town, nestled beside the banks of the Yellowstone, the Swift River Ranch has built a reputation as an idyllic venue well-suited for events of all shapes and sizes. What began as a single request to host an event on the property has since blossomed into a bustling business staging more than 30 events each year.
“The owner of the property received a request about 8 years ago to have a wedding here,” begins Heather Calderwood, event coordinator and property manager. “It was a high country wedding…sawdust on the floor. Within a week or two, they were inundated with people wanting to have their weddings at the venue.”
The property was originally intended to be used for high-end, intimate gatherings of 8-10 people, where a formal dinner would be served.
“Things snowballed so quickly, they never even got that far,” recounts Heather. Once word of mouth began to circulate about the venue’s unique charm and sweeping views, bookings poured in and Swift River had its start. Now, Heather and her associate Melynie Moore (also an Event Coordinator) lead a team of five ladies who take care of everything related to the event, from set-up to tear down…and beyond.
“From running heavy equipment to sewing a bride into her wedding dress. We want to do as much as we possibly can to make our clients happy and stress-free.”
She emphasizes the importance of being open and honest with clients, ensuring that expectations align with what they are able to provide. As the venue is a barn, Heather likes to be candid about its laid back, rustic atmosphere, especially when consulting with potential brides.
Yet, weddings are far from the only events hosted by Swift River Ranch. Their repertoire includes birthdays, anniversaries, receptions, dances, period reenactments, and corporate events.
“We hosted the GOP dinner,” Heather adds. Some events take place in a single evening, others may require an entire weekend. Guests are able to camp on-site if necessary and there is a honeymoon cabin available for usage.
The barn itself is able to house 500 people seated, 1,000 people standing, offering great flexibility for those who may be concerned about inclement weather forcing the party indoors.
Heather and Melynie wear many hats on the job, including impressive culinary skills. Depending on the needs of the client, the team may cook dinner for an event, feeding up to 150 people or more.
Paths to Success
Before co-managing Swift River Ranch, Heather and Melynie spent four years coordinating public events together outside of Montana. When the opportunity arose for Heather to work at Swift River about 7 years ago, Melynie followed shortly after.
“Melynie has a Master’s in art and teaching,” explains Heather. “She handles the artistic side. My side tends to be paperwork and consulting with clients.” Each of them have more than a decade of planning experience, including dance recitals and plays, which helped them understand the logistics of operating large-scale events.
Now, as a female owned and operated endeavor, Swift River Ranch is a testament to the unlimited potential of women in business.
“A woman in general needs to be able to stand her ground and be confident in herself, and that’s that. She knows what is right and she knows what she wants."
Through her own confidence and the array of talents possessed by the staff, Heather knows they can handle anything an event may throw their way.
“We have done it all,” concludes Heather. “We operate equipment, make the repairs, and will also decorate the cake.” Whether setting up tables and chairs for 500 people, or baking desserts for an intimate gathering, Swift River Ranch is dedicated to making their guests feel at home.