Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Two weeks with no school, lots of horses around

During October, the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus, Ohio, is overtaken with hundreds of thousands of people and horses.

People from all over the country and across the world come together for the world’s largest single breed horse show.

I have been visiting the All American Quarter Horse Congress since I was six years old, and for the past two years, I have been fortunate enough to compete there.

Global Horse Show

The Congress is an unbelievable experience, It is hard to fully grasp it without pulling up to the fairgrounds and seeing the hundreds of horse trailers scattered across the camping areas.

The event brings in over $110 million to Ohio’s economy.

From Hamilton, the trip to Columbus is about six and a half hours. I left on the morning of Oct. 14, for the long trek, to this, my favorite horseshow and possibly my favorite place I’ve ever been.

Golf Carts & Ice Cream

Upon arriving to the Expo Center, the view of the famous Horseshoe comes into view – the stadium that belongs to the Ohio State Buckeyes. But from Oct. 8-26, the horseshoe is crowded with horse trailers.

That is only one of the unusual sights I saw. There is a McDonald’s across the street from the entrance of the Congress, and at mealtimes, the drive-thru look like a golf cart raceway. At any time, ten or more golf carts were lined up going through the drive-thru or parking in the parking lot of any hotel within a two mile radius of the fairgrounds. While at the Congress, the only mode of transportation are Slopecks Golf carts.

Don’t think for a second that McDonald’s is the only place to eat. The food alley has over 20 mobile eateries, with any food available at a fair, and then some.

Mai-Ling’s Chinese cuisine gives enough food to feed someone for two days.

My favorite eatery, the Sweet Shop, makes amazing, world famous giant cinnamon rolls, but the cookie delight is even better. A giant cookie topped with two large scoops of vanilla ice cream, heaps of whipped cream, and chocolate syrup is a delicious substitute for dinner.

Horses As Business

Besides the horse trailers, golf carts, and delicious, unhealthy food, there are many other things that grab one’s attention.

Take a walk through two large buildings filled with some of the best venders in the country. There are over seven acres of shops to explore. Booths are topped off with all the bling any girl could want, including the all pink Congress Queens booth.

The booth has everything pink any girl could want. The $100,000 in prizes is awarded to the Queen contestant who averages the highest score in three competitions. All states are allowed one representative who competes in an oral interview, written test over the AQHA Rulebook, and a riding class. Jessica West from Ohio was this year’s winner.

Besides the Queens booth, there are other shops for both girls and guys. Shops filled with so many tractors and accessories, any guy wouldn’t mind the shopping, either. But all the shopping wouldn’t be possible if there were no shop owners.

Vendors make the trip to the Congress for many reasons, but the most common reason vendors tough out the long month is the exposure to people they wouldn’t normally get business from.

“I get to meet thousands of people from all over, it’s really good for business,” Jack May said. Jack is from Kansas and owns a sign shop in vendor hall.

Jimmy Roth is from Wisconsin and owns Roth Track. He travels to many large shows and says the exposure is good for business, but it’s not all fun.

“The first week is fun,” he said. And ends that discussion with a chuckle.

I spent a lot of time shopping and looking around, made the majority of my Christmas list, but I also watched some of the best competitors in the horse industry win some of the most prestigious classes around.

Classes topped off at almost 200 exhibitors, the largest class I competed in had 193 showmen.

The $100,000 Horse

As the Congress experience came to a close for me, thousands of people gathered into the large covered arena to watch the most talked about class at the All American Quarter Horse Congress, the 2 year old Congress Master Hunter Under Saddle and Western Pleasure.

These two classes run back to back on the night of Oct. 24. There are roughly 40 horses in each class, the horses had never showed in a class before, and the entry just to get in to compete in the class was five thousand dollars.
The winner of the Hunter Under Saddle class received a $75,000 check, but the winner of the Western Pleasure class received a large cardboard check for $100,000, a custom made golf cart, and all the fame a horse person would like.

The Congress is truly unbelievable, and if you can brave the chilly weather, it will be one of the most unique things you can ever experience.

Between the shopping and the horses, there’s never a dull moment. I highly recommend making the trip to Columbus to enjoy some of the best horses this country has to offer, and the chance to meet some great horsemen as well.

(Minae reported on the AAQH Congress as part of her assignment for journalism class.)

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