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By Nancy Wiseman
Posted April 11, 2002
The Pin Oak Charity Horse Show remained steadfast in this year of economic chaos, exceeding last year in quality, prize money, exhibitor hospitality, and management. The addition this year of show manager Lenard Davenport acting as Front Arena Manager, along with General Show Manager Glenn Petty, and Show Secretary Scarlett Mattson, made this show undeniably one of the best managed horse shows in the country. Davenport commented, " This show is very comparable to Lexington. Absolutely nothing has been left undone. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this show, and was very pleasantly surprised when I arrived. My goal will be to get more horses down here next year, and promote it as much as possible. I know Texas is a long drive. I really think that if we can get them here just one time, they will come back again and again." Petty also speaks highly of the show and the outstanding committees behind the show. "I remember the first time I came here to manage, and my first sight of the facility. I admit to wondering what the show would be like. It is amazing what the show committees do to this arena. The end result is just beautiful, and rivals any show I have been to in the country. Not only is the show beautiful, the hospitality is absolutely outstanding!" Scarlett Mattson also had nothing but very high praise for the show. With high recommendations from three of the industry's top managers, Pin Oak is a show that should be on everyone's calendar for 2003.

Established in the 1940s, Pin Oak was originally known as the Houston Holiday Committee. The Committee intended to provide entertainment for the wounded soldiers confined to hospitals in the Harris County area. At that time, horse shows were just one of the various means of entertainment. Today, and for the past 50 years, Pin Oak Charity Horse Show has continued its strong ties to the medical community. The show was instrumental in the building of Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. In 1997 Pin Oak committed their support to the Ronald McDonald House of Houston, and through them has come full circle, once again supporting the Texas Children's Hospital.

The shows were originaly held at the Ambercrombie Pin Oak Stables until 1975. Pin Oak was considered "The Social Event" of the summer, and to this day many native Houstonians speak with great nostalgia of the glamour of the times and the event. The Jan Garber band played, with Frank Battencourt as arranger and trombonist. A highlight of the show was when the band would play "The Song of Love", and as they came to the part "Hi Lilly, Hi Lilly", they would wave to Mrs. Lillie Abercrombie, much to her delight. By weeks end everyone would be in tuxedos and evening gowns. The Abercrombies hosted the exhibitor's party, followed by a midnight breakfast, with the party continuing until the wee hours of the morning. Those were the days!

In the early 1970s the show was held at the Astroarena, where it remained until the mid-80s. Oil prices and a downward shift in the economy forced the show to move. After an attempt to hold the show at the Sam Houston Race Park, the show moved to the Great Southwest Equestrian Center, where it has resided for the past five years. As the oldest horse show in Texas, its history is colorful and memorable.

This year Steve Allred, from Winston-Salem, North Carolina judged the Saddlehorse, Hackney, Roadster, Road Pony, and Equitation classes. Everyone's favorite Jack Schatzberg returned as show photographer. Prize money exceeded $45,000 in the Saddlehorse classes alone. A full schedule of classes was offered beginning March 27 and concluding on March 30.

This year's show also featured Walking and Racking Horses, and Welsh Ponies. In addition, Pin Oak featured a nationally top rated Hunter and Jumper show held at a second arena, with over 700 horses in attendance this year.

Beginning on March 27 and finishing on April 7, there was a $10,000 Grand Prix on March 30 and a $25,000 Grand Prix on March 6. This year's Grand Prix featured a Parade of Horses exhibiting all breeds shown at the Mansion arena.

In 2001 the show donated $60,000 for the fourth year in a row to its designated charity -- Ronald McDonald House of Houston. The same amount for donation is expected this year, putting Pin Oak at of the highest level of contribution for a horse show. New President and longtime Saddlehorse exhibitor Joy Warren feels very confident that the show will meet its goals for 2002, and is optimistic about the show's future. Pin Oak Charity's proceeds contributed to Ronald McDonald House over the past four years have helped build a new support floor at Texas Children's Hospital's Clinical Care Unit. The floor was finished last fall.

This year, proceeds will go toward maintaining two other floors and a new parent sleepover room, which is under construction. Sherry Frankel-Deal headed up this year's sponsorhip committee. Her mother the, late Marjorie Frankel, was a avid supporter of Pin Oak. Frankel devoted her time and resources to the show for many years. Frankel-Deal appears to be following in her mother's footsteps.

With the finest exhibitor hospitality ever, the show was very reminiscent of the Pin Oak of years past. Pin Oak President Joy Warren's comment, "It can't get any better than this!"was a sentiment expressed more than once over the four days. Elly Berman and Nancy Wiseman were the Co-Chairpersons for the Mansion arena again this year. Sponsor's Club Chairman Talitha Taylor welcomed both exhibitors and sponsors into the cozy, club-like atmosphere decorated by Chairperson Jean Huffstickler.

A full bar was offered along with hors d'oeuvres, and all exhibitors were admitted with their exhibitor badge free of charge. Each day, McDonald's Restaurant donated a free breakfast for all trainers and exhibitors. On Saturday, the show hosted a Junior Exhibitor Party, Easter Egg Hunt, and Petting Zoo for juvenile riders and their families. Ronald McDonald House brought those children well enough to attend.

A real highlight of the show was the Exhibitor Party on Friday evening chaired by Joan Cantrell. Party Decoration Chairperson's Debbie Beard and Andrea Finger went totally over the top. There were hay bales, picket fences, and wind mills lining the dance floor. Cowboy boots filled with gorgeous bouquets of springtime flowers, donated by Roman Flowers, decorated the tables. The cowboy boots were the actual decorations used at President Bush's Inaugural Ball.

Richard Flowers, LLC, also helped decorate the show, donating the pony print linens. Top Houston Restaurant County Line Bar-BQ donated the food. Auction Chairpersons Chris Tresten and Wendi Lebrocq had 50 fabulous items such as a signed guitar donated by ZZ TOP, several furs donated by Sakowitz, a beautiful ruby and diamond necklace and bracelet set, sports memorabilia, a wine tasting party, dinners, hotel overnights, and much, much more. A second auction will take place at the Grand Prix on April 6th. D.J. Ed Madonio, known as Thirty-Three and a Third Mobile D.J.'s, donated his services for the second year. Co- Chairman Nancy Wiseman was most tickled to see the junior exhibitors still going strong after midnight with a conga line. "We had to send them home so we could go to bed!"

Spirit and decorations produced showgrounds as beautiful as any show in the country. Ring Decorations Chairperson JoAnn Crane, and Flower Barrels Chairperson Pam Hester, lavishly decorated the show, making this a virtual springtime festival of flowers. Creekside Nursery generously provided truckloads of beautiful plants for the show at both arenas.

Ribbon's and Trophie's Chairperson Michelle Willie's eye for the finer things allowed winners to take home beautiful trophies by Arthur Court. Beautiful Baccarat horse heads were given in the Five-Gaited, Three-Gaited, Fine Harness, and Walking Horse Grand Championships. All championship winners received a beautiful bouquet of red roses, also donated by Roman Flowers, and a championship cooler. Prize money for the Five-Gaited Stake was $7500, with $5000 and $3000 distributed in the Three-Gaited and Fine Harness Stake respectively.

Each evening vocalist Craig Malone sang for opening ceremonies. Malone sings for many of the Houston area sporting events. Debra Jackson headed up Opening Ceremonies, and through her efforts the Navy, Fire Department, Airforce, and Marines accompanied Malone respectively for beautiful and stirring color guard presentation each evening.

Co-Chairperson Elly Berman summarized the show well noting,"I think Lilly Abercrombie would have approved!"

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