Because the 2020 pandemic forced HPD officials to cancel their event last year, the organizers had an extra year to get ready for 2021. And it showed.
The 2021 Horse Progress Days held in Mount Hope, Ohio, turned out to be just what most of us needed after a year of quarantines, masks and social distancing. As usual, Susan and I arrived at the HPD grounds Thursday, the day before the event officially started. We were able to immediately navigate to the building where our booth was located because organizers had mailed us a map a week or two earlier. Inside, a table had been set up to help vendors find the exact spot for our booths. Two chairs, a table and a trash can were there waiting for us. Finally, we were able to park right outside, and, within a half hour, we were unloaded and setting up. It was wonderful.
Don't misunderstand me. Every Horse Progress Days is run adeptly by the local organizers. They manage a huge influx of people, livestock, equipment, supplies and vendors. And when mother nature hands them a curve ball, they pivot and make things work. That said, Mount Hope is special. For one thing, the facility is perfectly set up for the event. I don't know how many people attended, but it never felt crowded.
Finally, I can't say enough good things about the wisdom of handing out reusable water bottles to everyone attending as well as setting up refill stations throughout the grounds. Normally, when I take photos during Horse Progress Days I have to pick up discarded plastic water bottles and find a proper place for them before I can take the shot. This year, water bottle litter was nearly nonexistent.
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As soon as I have this issue at the printer, I will be heading to Colorado to photograph the Victor Pack Burro Race. The 6.62 mile course is in some fairly rugged terrain and includes about 1,100 feet of elevation gain. In essence, a human athlete runs alongside a donkey athlete over the course. Some donkeys are better trained and have better attitudes than others. When the burro stops, it is particlarly humbling for the human to have to stop as well. Some of the best contestants find that running a little behind the donkey and allowing it to be the leader works the best. Anyone who has worked with donkeys will understand why that makes sense. After that, I head to Shelbyville, Tenn., to attend the First Annual American Mule and Bluegrass Festival for a couple of days. I hope to get lots of shots for our mule calendar and enough footage of mules, their humans, bluegrass bands and more, to put together a couple shows for RFD-TV.
The following week I will be heading to Don Copa's place in Little Falls, Minn., for the annual Northern Minnesota Draft Horse Field Day. Mike Berthiaume suggested I come a day or two early to visit with Don and persuade him to show me his collection of horse drawn farming equipment. That should make a great TV show and magazine article.
The American Brabant Association is holding a field day in Medford, Wis., the following weekend. It is always a treat to visit the Jason and Katrina Julian farm, and I look forward to meeting more ABA members and seeing them use their horses.
The Waverly Horse Sale is the following week where we'll have a booth selling calendars, books and magazine subscriptions, as well as visiting with some folks I see only at Waverly.
On Oct 15 and 16, I plan to be in Hamilton, Mo., for the Northwest Missouri Steam and Gas Fall Festival and Swap where there will be a variety of activities, including draft horse plowing, threshing, apple butter cooking and more.
Last on my calendar for October is the 2021 USA Plowing Contest at the Mike and Joyce Downs farm in beautiful Olympia, Ky. Canceled last year due to Covid, this event brings out some great people, fine horses and mules, and expert plowmen and women.
After that, I'm not sure where I'll be heading. I have a number of events and places on my calendar but haven't committed to any of them yet, that I recall. If there is something, someplace or someone you think I should visit, please let me know. And if you have already done that but I haven't made it happen yet, please remind me. Sometimes my notes get lost amid the mess that is my desk.
I hope everyone is staying safe and enjoying a beautiful autumn. I know we are here. And grateful for it.