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Posted march 8, 2002
Editor's Note: The following speech was read at the ASHA Annual Convention Awards Banquet held on Saturday, February 23, 2002.
The American Saddlebred Horse Association's Meritorious Service Award is presented to one who gives selflessly in service for the betterment of our breed community.

But this evening's recipient didn't start out in life with a plan to be involved in the horse business. Actually, he started in the funeral business. In fact, he has said he was "raised on a farm connected with a funeral home." Like any Kentucky youngster, he was involved in farming - and although he graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in agriculture, he didn't want to be a farmer. He wanted to work in a funeral home.

Well, our meritorious service award doesn't honor service in mortuaries. Fortunately for us, our honoree finally became involved with horse shows. He was instrumental in helping the Taylor County Fair Horse Show grow to attract out-of-state trainers before he moved to Lexington, where he was tapped as president of the Kentucky Association of Fairs and Horse Shows. In 1968 when Rock Creek wanted to upgrade their spring show to rival the Lexington Junior League show, they called on Bill Munford to manage the event. Soon, the old All American Horse Show in Oklahoma City, the Great American in Chicago, the revived St. Louis National and the first Quarter Horse National Championship added their names to Munford's client roster.

And until 2001, he has managed every Kentucky State Fair World's Championship Horse Show since 1972. The first thing he did when he got there was ... well, he got rid of the chickens. Remember those? If you don't remember the chickens that bothered the Saddlebreds at State Fair, then you can thank Bill Munford.

His management skills have covered far more than the removal of fluttering fowl, however. His talented leadership has calmed many an exhibitor, trainer and owner, reassured horse show staffers, reinforced rules that people tried to bend and, in patriarch-like fashion, oversaw the continued success of the horse show which grew to become "the big one."

He's widely regarded as one of the best fund raisers in the business. We suppose that, like funeral directors, horse show managers are trained to get the last dime you have before you check out.

As a result of Bill's commitment to the American Saddlebred Horse Association, a contract between ASHA and Kentucky State Fair was adopted in 1995, whereby the success of the show he nurtured will benefit its breed association. And through Joe Stopher and Bill's efforts, Mary Anne Cronan was selected as the Kentucky State Fair board member in charge, and Mary Anne now is the first woman chairman of the Kentucky State Fair board.

Before Bill retired as manager, he groomed his own replacement in Scarlett Mattson, ensuring an uninterrupted continuation of excellent show management.

Before the 2001 Kentucky State Fair World's Championship Horse Show, Bill's role changed to that of senior advisor for development and coordinator of sponsorships, and we hope Betty is getting more of his time these days. Recently honored by USA Equestrian and the UPHA, it is our pleasure to complete his triple-crown tour with our own American Saddlebred Horse Association's Meritorious Service Award.

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