Inaugural Tri-State Horse Expo gathers equine enthusiasts
For the last fifteen years horse enthusiasts across the four-cornered geographical area encompassing the borderlands of Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa came to expect the season of Spring to be heralded by a colorful, rich and varied equine celebration known as the Sioux Falls Horse Fair, held annually at the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds and Expo Center. That beautiful multi-faceted facility is best known as home of the Sioux Empire fair, but year ‘round it hosts horse shows, car shows, antique shows, car sales, bike races, and festivals of all kinds.
The Horse Council, instrumental to instituting and so far perpetuating the spring Horse Fair, for some reason decided not to do so in 2014. That decision came more or less at the last minute. A group of capable and enthusiastic area horse people quickly decided the event was important to their region, and must not die. With the generational savvy, perseverance and faith common to prairie people they teamed up and leaned willingly into the job. Pulling together they raised, Phoenix-like, a brand new Tri-State Horse Expo from the ashes.
Freida Fossum of Hartford, South Dakota, who had been involved with the South Dakota Horse Council and was a longtime volunteer with the Horse Fair, commented that the equine community really stepped up to share information and ideas, recruit sponsors, find and engage presenters, and get the ball rolling for the new event. Freida reported that Dan Purring of Hartford spearheaded the committee, and they also worked with Ron Helwig of Mitchell and Rhonda Loges of Ranchers Outlet at Sioux Falls.
The happening premiered last week, March 13 – 16, and what an event it was. Two arenas were kept busy at all times with events, demonstrations and clinicians representing many and varied disciplines. Many breeds were displayed. Competitive trail riding, western working horses, dressage, jumping, polo, natural horsemanship, farrier skills, equine acupuncture and ranch sorting are just a few of the things which were demonstrated and taught by experts from the various fields. Youngsters competed on stick horses and with automated roping dummies. A fullblown Ranch Rodeo was held, attracting 20 4-person teams.
More than 340 top hand cowboys and cowgirls of all ages showed up from South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa to compete on fine Lesmeister, Holenbeck, Kosel and Melvin rodeo stock in 13 different events during the South Dakota Rodeo Association sanctioned two-day rodeo. One veteran of the event commented that they had to run slack from 10 a.m. until after 2 p.m. on Sunday to accommodate all the entries. Fifty-seven people brought horses to the Expo Center to compete in the team penning alone, an event featuring three-member teams. More than 250 teams of two competed in team sorting. The barrel racing was big too, with 225 runs made during the Expo.
Complimenting all the action and educational opportunities was a big, high quality trade fair offering just about everything for horses and the people who love them. Hats, boots, purses, jewelry, clothing, books, saddles, bridles, halters, all kinds of tack and a lot of bling, feed and supplements – even horse trailers – were available for the discriminating shopper. Many booths featured special sale prices for the Horse Expo.
A cowboy church service was held in the arena on Sunday Morning, provided by Cowboy Way Church out of Hartford, S.D., A horse photo competition was held, with great awards and prizes offered. And the colorful Ridin’ Angels eight-girl drill team performed.
Through visiting with the friendly vendors I learned the Spring event at Sioux Falls has become a favorite for many of them. Some compared it favorably with the big Minnesota Horse Fair. Martha Allshouse of Horse N Stuff Tack at Castlewood, S.D., said she has had a booth there for 9 or 10 years and it’s been a good show for her. Amanda Hersom from Horse ‘n Hound of Sioux Falls started exhibiting at the Horse Fair 12 years ago. For Deborah Olney from Kadoka, S.D., this is just the second year to bring her traveling boutique Lil’ Bit of Everything to Sioux Falls, even though she’s worked the SDRA Finals for eight years. Saddle maker Cliff Langerud from Barnesville, Minn., has built more than 500 saddles, but is a new vendor to the Tri-State Horse Expo. His booth was attracting a lot of attention there, as was Jim Hunter’s big Bronco Billy’s Arena & Tack display, which is a longtime perennial from Council Bluffs, Iowa. Cowboy Co-Op Creations offers saddle racks, beds, tables, trophy displays and a huge variety of photo frames, all handmade within Nathan and Allison Sandland’s family. Their 11-year-old daughter is an all-around rodeo winner, and her younger brother isn’t far behind. Photos by Shana is another family operation. The talented Pierre, S.D., artist takes the photos and her husband builds rustic frames for them. Leslie Montgomery and her son from Lake Norden, South Dakota, worked a booth representing Trinity Ranch and Trinity West Ministries. Along with having many interesting and attractive items for sale, they put part of the proceeds from every sale to work “to help women and children in need.”
Frieda Fossum, one of the organizers and possibly the busiest volunteer, said “Comments from people were very positive. Some I remember include, ‘Excited to have the new organization pick up the ball and run with it.’ Others touted it as a ‘Great family weekend’. Over and over I heard, ‘There is something for everyone,’ and ‘so much to do …4 days of entertainment and informational clinics for only $25!’ And ‘Cowboy church had a great message’.
Freida continued, “One of the ladies in the concession stand told me ‘This event has been very positive, everyone has good things to say, no negative in the crowd.’” She concluded, “I personally had dozens of people thanking me for my help in getting this event together for the horse community.”
Although weather was overcast, chilly and windy during part of the Tri-State Horse Expo, it apparently did not dampen enthusiasm or keep participants away, as approximately 5,000 people passed through the gates during the weekend. The sun came out to bless the activities on Sunday and it would no doubt be accurate to say “A good time was had by all.”
Smiling families, boots and hats, the fragrance of hay and horse sweat, the thrill of winning, the giggles of joyful kids, the pride and joy on the face of a pink-hatted Downs cowgirl putting a black Arabian up on a pedestal all by herself, and the relief on the face of a bulldogger who came through a wreck to find he could stand up and had no broken bones …that is the colorful textured fabric of the just-celebrated First Annual Tri-State Horse Expo. There’ll probably be a repeat performance about this time next year. I hope to see you there.