In another life and another time, I was involved with an organization called the Warrenton Horse Show. Known as a Labor Day tradition, horse show lore reports it as the oldest corporation in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
I fell in love with the show grounds as it was a green space in an encroaching area of development. I was in love with the idea that we were protecting something money could never buy.
I had been a board member and board president.
This was the place that, when my kids were small, rated not with other places, such as Disneyland, but instead with iconic personalities, such as the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, which points to my theory that the Warrenton Horse Show is a place of the heart.
For kids, the Warrenton Horse Show was the anesthesia that seemingly ushered them back to school. For parents, it was the celebration that yes, in fact, kids were going back to school.
It was not just a Labor Day tradition but an event that was steeped in Virginia’s agricultural and horse culture for well over 100 years. Everything about the grounds shouts “country fair.” It’s Virginian, it’s old, and it’s cool. It’s classic.
Hot summer days with my children at the Warrenton Horse Show are memories that are indelibly etched in my soul.
Our kids did not have fancy ponies but rather elders of the pasture; both ponies were at least one or two years older than me at the time, at the very least in their mid-thirties. On hot days, they required cold baths and fans. Both were pre-diabetic and had Cushing disease, and combined, they maybe had a grand total of five teeth. The only things that made them different from a toy horse on wheels were 1) the wheels and 2) a weak pulse.
They were not like the show horses of today; with large corporate sponsors of money and support, my troop was a proudly glued together posse.
The kids were super proud of our stable mounts and made up the cheerleading squad of my horse Holy Smoke, who was a fine mix between an unknown Thoroughbred and a plow horse.
Holy Smoke was so big he could handle several kindergarten-sized mounts at one time, appearing to be more of a Greyhound bus than anything else.
The end of the several-day show often meant paying the vendor, who kept a running tally.
Kids were kings at the Warrenton Horse Show; all loved it. My horse show bills at the food stand involved what seemed like the national debt for lemonade, hot dogs, and ice cream.
There was nothing like lemonade at the sometimes hot, dusty Warrenton Horse Show. Personally, I loved being part of the solution, keeping sweat off the brows of my kids, their friends, and their friends’ friends.
The Warrenton Horse Show was a community, and it did not matter if someone liked you or not; everyone waved, and everyone said hello. It was a family.
Historically, ambitious developers have circled the grounds.
Several years ago, in an effort to secure the notable grounds, we dedicated the secretarys stand in honor of the Country Western Legend Patsy Cline. Patsy used to sing there, and opening that metaphoric box was paramount to opening flood gates of fans, friends, and family.
People dressed like Patsy, sang like Patsy, and even drove cars like Patsy, and some drove from as far as California to do so.
Close to twenty years later, people still come to pay homage to Patsy Cline.
Together, the small volunteer board dug in and locked arms to save something bigger than ourselves.
For close to a year, we met every week at my old farmhouse to plan, listen to auditions, and strategize our big day.
Today, a passerby will see the effects of development. Adjacent to grounds, one will see leveled trees, and active construction is underway.
And yes, without any doubt in my mind, developers have their eye on the prize.
It’s an obvious next step for those who might not know the story or have a point of reference and understand the relevance.
For over 100 years, the showgrounds have been a green space for the town of Warrenton.
If you go there today, you will see how the showgrounds are being lovingly stewarded: A new sand ring was placed in memory of legendary horseman Bucky Reynolds, the lawn has been cut, and trees were planted in memory of friends. Every corner has a story.
You can see the care and love despite the unspoken threat of the grounds being lost one day to the highest bidder.
I am empowered to see how Warrenton Horse Show volunteers continue to maintain and care for what is left. Clearly, it is the last square of a quilt, made from the heart and much loved.