2010-07-17 / News

Festival Will ‘Wow’ Horse Lovers, Organizers Say, Starting Wed.

Second Mackinac Island Festival of the Horse Packed With Activities
By Rebecca Jaskot

Michelle Stuck (from left), Katy Penny, and Maryanke Alexander practice their “Puttin' on the Ritz” routine for a musical kur they will perform at the Festival of the Horse along with Lisa Brock, who could not attend practice. The Festival of the Horse is Wednesday, July 21, through Saturday, July 24. Most of the events take place at the Grand Hotel Borough Lot, pictured here. Michelle Stuck (from left), Katy Penny, and Maryanke Alexander practice their “Puttin' on the Ritz” routine for a musical kur they will perform at the Festival of the Horse along with Lisa Brock, who could not attend practice. The Festival of the Horse is Wednesday, July 21, through Saturday, July 24. Most of the events take place at the Grand Hotel Borough Lot, pictured here. Mackinac Island's horse culture will be celebrated Wednesday, July 21, through Saturday, July 24, during the second Mackinac Island Festival of the Horse, hosted by Mackinac Horsemen's Association (MHA). Three major aspects are brought together during the festival, said Association president Maryanke Alexander, enriching the equestrian culture on Mackinac Island, raising funds for a community stable, and boosting tourism.

“If you take all of these factors and put them together, it is just meant to be for the Festival of the Horse,” Mrs. Alexander said.

Enriching Equestrian

Culture

The Festival of the Horse is primarily a celebration of the horse. Numerous events will celebrate and educate the public about the animals. Most events take place in the on the grounds of Grand Hotel next to the school, near the hotel tennis courts. A day-long schedule is planned this year.

“There is something for absolutely everyone,” Mrs. Alexander said.

The saddle parade Wednesday at 7 p.m. will showcase the horses of the Island and the 4-H club students as they walk down Main Street and up Cadotte Avenue. It will feature more than 50 horses from private stables, Jack's Livery Stable, and Cindy's Riding Stable. The carriage parade at 7 p.m. Friday will showcase at least 17 carriages, both antique and new.

“In everyday life on Mackinac Island, they're just work horses,” Mrs. Alexander said. “Now, the carriages and horses are going to be shown off.”

Thursday is Kids Day featuring pin the tail on the horsey, horse piñata, and a horseshoe pitching contest. Kids can also learn horse and horse equipment nomenclature and participate in arts and crafts. Pony rides will also be available to children. Off-Island 4-H groups have been invited to attend.

The festival will host two parties, one fundraiser for MHA at The Gate House Thursday night and a barn-raising party with music and food Saturday night. Musical kurs, in which the horse moves to music, will also entertain guests during the festival.

Stable tours, demonstrations and clinics, and a horse culture lecture series are designed to inform the public about horses. The Historic Guided Stable Tour will feature at least five private stables at West Bluff cottages and will be led by Island resident Marta Olson. Professional horseman Leesa Massman will teach a clinic on showmanship and Western equitation. Lectures will be given by local veterinarian Al Sibinic, Island equestrian Candice Dunnigan, and Michigan 4-H Horse Program coordinator Karen Waite from Michigan State University.

The Breeds of Mackinac presentation Saturday afternoon will teach visitors about more than 20 different types of breeds on the Island. More than 500 people turned out for the breed presentation last year, and Mrs. Alexander expects an even bigger crowd this year.

Funding a Community

Stable

Proceeds from the festival go to MHA, which is raising money to build a new community stable. The goal for the new stable is to provide a safe environment away from the town and traffic for beginner riders who take lessons.

The stable will also provide a place for summer visitors to board their horses and desensitize them to the sights and sounds of Mackinac Island, according to Mrs. Alexander, making it a safer setting for horses and people. The leases will help offset some of the cost of 4-H lessons provided.

MHA currently has free use of a barn at the Mission that the organization has outgrown, said executive director Leanne Brodeur. It houses 10 horses.

“We don't have room for any more than that,” she said. “It's too many as is.”

Besides tight quarters, the location limits what the 4-H lessons can safely do.

Right now, children take lessons in Great Turtle Park. The older youth are experienced enough to ride out themselves, but not the younger ones. So the older students must ride the horses to the park for the younger ones, wait while the younger students have their lessons, then ride the horses back.

The new stable planned near Wawashkamo Golf Club would allow younger children to take lessons in the arena, freeing up the older students to continue their lessons at Great Turtle Park without having to wait.

MHA leases three acres of land along British Landing Road from the Mackinac Island State Park Commission for $1 a year and has fenced the perimeter, which will allow students to ride around a 100- by 200-foot arena.

A new stable would also allow children to get a better hands-on barn experience, said Mrs. Brodeur.

Michigan State University Extension has taken a major interest in the 4-H program and new stable, Mrs. Alexander said, and she already plans to have two interns from the university come for summers to give lessons and clinics in various disciplines.

Some of the clinics will be offered in the spring and fall, which, she said, will increase business on the Island during the slower times of year.

Boosting Tourism

In its second year, the Festival of the Horse is expected to bring in a lot of visitors from all over the country, Mrs. Alexander said, including Arkansas,Wisconsin, Minnesota,Washington,D.C., and Ontario. The festival gives people a new reason to come back to Mackinac, she noted, and will help boost business on the Island.

“We're bringing the 'wow' factor again to the Island for horse lovers of the world,” she said.

The Festival of the Horse Web site is gaining in popularity, and the 100 MHA members have been working ever since the conclusion of the festival last year, pushing to get the word out on billboards and at horse expeditions.

“There's a lot of prep work,” Mrs. Alexander said. “Festival of the Horse has been a yeararound project and we've come a long way.”

The growth of the festival can be credited to the members, she said, who have backgrounds in marketing, design, tourism, and advertising.

“The talent on our committee is second to none,” she said. “It's a dynamite team.”

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