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Boone County Fair Draws Longtime Exhibitors

by Karen W. Coup

COLUMBIA, Mo. - One of Missouri’s oldest county fairs, the Boone County Fair, welcomed old and new exhibitors to its Society Horse Show, July 23-26. Multiple generations of Saddle Horse families passed through the entrance marked by the historic monuments dedicated to Stonewall King and Forest King.

This was the show’s 11th year at the new fairgrounds on the east edge of town. The fair began in 1835 in the area of present-day downtown Columbia, and continued through a couple of locations. After a hiatus during the years of World War II, the fair tradition was revived in 1947 with the “historic spectacle of Stonewall King leading a parade of 24 of his offspring,“ according to a history of the Fair. In 1948, the fairgrounds northwest of downtown with its outdoor ring and, eventually, the graves of and monuments for Stonewall King and Forest King, was dedicated.

That location hosted the annual fair and horse show for 43 years until 1991, and it is the location many of today’s “more mature” Missouri horse people remember fondly. Show manager Lydia Harris Bell, who grew up showing at the fair in its former location, grinned, reminiscing, “My parents and I have great memories of the old show. One year my horse’s curb chain broke and trainer Dale Pugh had everything in his pockets but a new one. I won anyway and beat that year’s Lexington juvenile five-gaited champion,” she laughed. “The current show is popular and the younger horse people, including my son, will have their own memories of it someday.”

Among the families sporting multiple generations at the show, the family of petite great-grandmother Alice Thompson stood out, with four generations cheering, coaching and/or showing. Thompson still has her Skyrim Stable Farm, where her beloved Skyrim’s Bourbon Stonewall stood at stud for many years. Her family owns Wildwood Stable, and they made several trips to the winner’s circle this year.

Glenda and Dale Pugh now show from Ron Hulse’s stable, but a Pugh Stables reunion of sorts took place with their former riders Kirk Osburg and Karen (White) Coup, who are making come-backs in the five-gaited amateur ranks this year. (Glenda) Pugh and Coup carried the reunion into the Five-gaited Amateur Stake and tied in that order. Osburg won both the Five and Three-Gaited Amateur Open classes. Another ‘70s-era Pugh rider, show manager Lydia Bell couldn’t get away from the horse show office, but joined the group “in spirit,” threatening that she would “go find a horse to show!” (Coup’s daughters, Katie and Betts, and Osburg’s daughter, Alison, and wife, Cathy, all also show, as does Bell’s son, Matt, on occasion.)

Fresh from judging Lexington Junior League, Jim Koller of Simpsonville, Ky., efficiently marked the cards for all the Saddle Horse classes. Pam Ashbach of Sparta, Mo., capably judged the Academy classes.

On Stake Night, judge Koller decided the outcome of the three major championships, and all three stayed in the Show-Me State of Missouri. Local Columbia trainer Brenda Benner was thrilled with her Five-Gaited Championship tricolor, won aboard Callaway’s Blue Blood for owner Teresa Freyer. The Three-Gaited Championship trophy, awarded appropriately on a hot Missouri night, went to High Heat for owner Carolyn Miller, with Mark Hulse in the irons. Rocky Brannon drove his Gateway Manor’s Did You Know to the Fine Harness Stake winner’s circle.

The show was well supported by Missouri stables, and wins were well spread among them. Out-of-state barns from Iowa, Kansas and as far away as Nebraska and Kentucky added spice to the always competitive show and took home their fair share of blues and tricolors.

Visitors to the County Fair, along with the usual railside families and coaches, kept the stands filled and made up an enthusiastic crowd. Exhibitors’ parties every night were enjoyed by all, and Progressive Party manager Gina Boelsen arranged great entertainment and did some catering herself with donated funds. “The parties are a treat when everyone’s hungry after the show, and the Progressive Party is particularly popular,” smiled Boelsen. Terrific entertainment at the Progressive Party was provided by vocalist Matt Bell, son of show manager Lydia Bell.

“Seabiscuit,” the new film starring Tobey Maguire as the jockey of the famous Depression-era racehorse, opened nationwide the weekend of the show, and proved to be a good diversion for horse show exhibitors. “Horsey” viewers gave it good ratings and a “take a hanky” recommendation.

It appears that future generations of riders and, hopefully, volunteers, will keep this venerable Columbia horse show their favorite late July destination for years to come. Perhaps the monuments to Stonewall King and Forest King have found a permanent home at the gateway to the Boone County Fairgrounds.

This concludes the highlights from the Boone County Fair’s Society Horse Show. Complete results may be found by visiting the results section our web site.

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