Taylor Horsefest wraps up after quarter of a century
After 25 years, Taylor Horsefest has come to an end. Last weekend, July 28 and 29, marked the final hitch-up for the community activity, but nobody’s jerking the reins too hard. The event, which got its start in 1993 to draw people into the tiny town of 150 residents in western North Dakota, will hopefully shift next year from an event all its own to being incorporated into Good Old Days, a show that focuses primarily on old tractors and cars.
“Twenty-five years ago, a group of four people that decided Taylor was kind of a dying town and trying to revive it or help put it on the map,” said Duane Urlacher, president of Taylor Community Activities, the corporation that hosts Taylor Horsefest. “They got the brainstorm to have a horsefest that was in honor of the horse.”
Urlacher joined Taylor Horsefest first as a volunteer about 20 years ago, then eventually moved to the president position.
It is coming to its close due to “a lack of help and kind of a lack of interest,” Urlacher said. “We kept getting less and less, so it just didn’t seem like it was worth putting the effort to keep it going.”
Operated by a board of seven people and a smattering of volunteers, Taylor Horsefest features a parade that, this year, had a boom in attendance, up from the usual dozen teams in the parade to about 60; demonstrations from blacksmiths, farriers, and horse-drawn machinery, such as binding, discing, and cultivating; a pie social; team obstacle course; and street dance.
“The draft horse did all the plowing and the field work. We do demonstrations with draft horses, cut hay, do some plowing, cultivating, discing,” Urlacher said. “They way they used draft horses back in the day is where the focus lied.”
They offered activities to keep kids roped in, such as inflatables, face painting, a petting zoo, kids dummy roping, scavenger hunt, and student art display, in which high school students could submit art that revolves around horses and an early North Dakota lifestyle. The board chose art in first, second, and third place, and the young artists received awards courtesy of Quality Quick Print in Dickinson.
“It started last year; we wanted to get some interest among the younger people in the community,” said Kerry Thompson Taylor Community Activities’ Treasurer.
For many years, Taylor Horsefest also included a horse pull and pony pull with teams traveling to North Dakota from as far as Kansas and Oklahoma, but often, the horse pull at the North Dakota State Fair coincided with the event, so participation was limited and it was scratched.
Thompson created a display at this year’s event honoring the history of Taylor Horsefest, including memorabilia and news clippings from past horsefests.
“She did a wonderful job this year, and put a lot of work into a display: all 25 years of pictures, posters, and T-shirts,” Urlacher said. “I just wish I could find a place I could keep that on display for a while.”
Part of Taylor Horsefest’s intent was to give back to the community; Taylor Community Activities purchased 40 acres some years ago that has several buildings, including a blacksmith shop and tinsmith shop. Heritage Hill, the name for the acreage, has acted as the site for Good Old Days, class and family reunions, and other events throughout the years.
“Over the years, there have been a lot of class reunions, family reunions, and we even had an all-school reunion all hinged around horsefest,” Urlacher said. “It’s kind of sad to see some that that was tied together go. It’s tough to see that disappear.”
Other ways that Taylor Horsefest has been able to benefit the community includes helping new businesses such as a daycare, beauty shop, plant nursery, as well as giving donations to local individuals and schools.
Urlacher mostly wishes to extend a thank you to the community and help throughout the years. He always looked forward to the camaraderie and time together preparing for Taylor Horsefest in the weeks leading up to it.
“I want to say a big thank you for all the volunteers who have helped over the years and helped put it on for 25 years,” he said. “We have generated some revenue for us to be able to help economically.”
He his hopeful that it can once again blossom into a go-to event in combining it with Good Old Days the second Sunday in September. Good Old Days will stand on its own, per usual, this year, but plans are tentatively in place for a combined two-day event next year.
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As a routine management matter, the Teddy Roosevelt National Park plans to remove a few horses from its herd.