By Stan Ashbee
In 2011, a Saskatoon berry orchard was put in on a 20-acre piece of property, just outside of Maple Creek on Highway 21 and on the way to Cypress Hills.
Grotto Gardens, a country market with so much more, came to be in 2016, as a gradual natural progression saw the addition of a log building, a bakery, food service, and a goat walk/petting zoo. A unique featured event at the local tourist attraction is Goat Yoga on Sundays at 11 a.m. through September.
“People love the animals. They’re therapeutic,” noted owner Dana Hassett.
Admission to the goat walk/petting zoo is by donation, but there’s so many more animals young and old can spend some time with, including peacocks, sheep, pigs, miniature donkeys, chickens, and a cow.
There’s also a memorial grotto, as the highway attraction was built as a tribute to Dana’s son Dean Sellinger, according to a plaque placed in Dean’s honour.
Dana added Grotto Gardens has expansion plans also in the works, which includes a train.
“A critter is coming from Texas and some other plans,” Dana teased.
Taylor Zoethout is the Grotto Gardens’ manager and is Dana’s son-in-law.
“It’s a fun place and we love tourists,” Taylor said. “We have a lot of fun.”
Tourists and locals can come out and spend an entire day and maybe only spend $10, Taylor pointed out.
Come out as a family and play with the animals, Taylor added. “If you get hungry, we have good food and good prices. The bakery is amazing.”
Grotto Gardens is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The business typically opens in May and is open until Oct. 1 this season, reopening again for Halloween.
Unfortunately, the recent COVID-19 pandemic caused a few changes in the way Grotto Gardens opened up for the season. Certain parts of Grotto Gardens were reopened, as part of the Government of Saskatchewan’s reopening phases.
“Definitely more cleaning for us,” Dana said, adding and staff wearing masks, has become part of the daily protocol. The gift shop and food service take-out opened June 10 with the petting zoo/goat walk just recently opening.
With the Goat Yoga experience, Dana explained Grotto Gardens was the first in Canada to offer the unique way to get in shape and relax the mind, body, and soul.
Two professional instructors came on board to help launch the maybe a bucket list activity. The cost is $25 plus GST for an hour-long class in an open-air barn.
For the uninitiated, Goat Yoga is just a basic yoga class, as goats join guests and meander around, Dana said. “They may sit down beside you. They kind of choose certain people. It’s just calming and people come away with a smile.”