Gambler’s Choice Keeps Spectators On Edge
By Devon Walder
Spectators crowded the stands for tonight’s Gambler’s Choice as the riders warmed their horses in the Gold Ring. The Gambler’s Choice, a traditional Devon class, requires riders to create their own course, choosing jumps based on their points and difficulty. What makes the Gambler’s Choice difficult is the course selection–it requires riders to pick jumps they know they can tackle, while also balancing their turns and gathering as many points as possible. Mistakes, like down rails, don’t earn points, and the fence is then unusable for the rest of the course, so riders must pick carefully.
The sun was only beginning to set when Laura Chapot took to the ring on Bradberry, quickly sweeping the course and setting a high score for the other competitors. Her tight, precise turns made up for two of her down poles, and it seemed as though Laura would hold the lead, as riders came and went, coming close but never meeting her score. For many, the 120 point diagonal oxer was particularly challenging. It was one of the most-knocked fences tonight. Every rider tried the joker fence, a 200 point, airy, skinny obstacle set to five feet, two inches. For some, taking the “gamble” paid off, but for others, the 200 point deduction moved them back in the ranking.
When Kevin Babbington entered the ring, his horse soared over the jumps with ease, barely coming close to the rails. The competition was fierce as he sailed over the last jump and galloped through the timers, and the spectators roared when he beat out Chapot for first. Unfortunately, his approach to the joker was not quick enough, and even though he cleared it, the time allowed had passed. Shorapur remained in first, however, seemingly sealing his place as the list of competitors dwindled. But then with only two riders to go, Todd Minikus rode in on Tuxedo, tearing through turns, flying through the air in a spectacular show of athleticism and talent. It quickly became clear that he would challenge Babbington’s score. The air was tense with anticipation as the numbers stacked up on the board. When he broke through the timers, a score of 1140 flashed across the screen as the sun set, and that set a score that proved untouchable for the rest of the night. When the final competitor left the ring, Minikus rode in to a thunder of cheers and whistles. In second was Kevin Babbington, and Laura Chapot came in third after her strong opening ride.
This year the Gambler’s Choice kept riders and spectators on their toes. Just as it seemed one rider pulled comfortably ahead, another came and swept the ring. Until the very end, the competition was intense in a true show of power, skill, and teamwork between horse and rider. Next year should prove to be just as wild. Be sure to make it out and enjoy the show!
Volunteers: The Backbone of the Devon Country Fair
By Caroline Goldstein
Year after year, dedicated volunteers keep the Country Fair up and running. This year, there are at least 1,017 volunteers who together are working 2,030 shifts throughout the show. The Country Fair is operated and staffed entirely by volunteers. The Volunteer Coordinators work to keep it all organized.
While the official volunteer sign-up schedule comes out each year in mid-March, the coordinators and chairmen are constantly recruiting new volunteers, said Betsie Stone, Volunteer Coordinator. Chairmen recruit at Bryn Mawr Hospital, at local high schools through service organizations and through various companies and organizations. Other volunteers also often bring in friends and family to help. “It is a lot of word of mouth,” Stone said.
The new Devon website allows new volunteers to register, and then the volunteers sign up for shifts through an online program called Shiftboard. The Shiftboard website has helped increase the number of people volunteering over the years, particularly because it allows for more flexibility in scheduling. “People can go on and see at the last minute where help is needed,” Stone noted.
Volunteers can also sign up at the annual Volunteer Party, which is held each May. Stone mentioned that she loves this party because it creates a community among the volunteers and allows everyone to get to know one another. Many of the volunteers have been participating for years. “A lot of the volunteers have been here for twenty plus years,” Stone said.
The Volunteer Coordinators’ goal is to make volunteering at Devon as enjoyable and easy as possible. All volunteers receive a pass for the entire show and parking passes for the days they volunteer. Stone mentioned that part of the fun is that the volunteers generally do not work in the industry in which they are volunteering.
“You do something that you normally wouldn’t do,” she said. Stone hopes that the number of volunteers continues to grow each year. “Volunteers are the Country Fair, without them, we simply wouldn’t survive,” she said.
Performance Riders Show Their Stuff in the Ring
By Devon Walder
In the performance classes tonight carriages, Saddlebreds, Hackneys, and Friesians brought more competition to the ring, demonstrating their unique and graceful stylistic riding. In the carriage classes, drivers maneuvered their horses and and carriages between cones in a course. The Saddlebreds exhibited in both Western and English classes, and the Hackney ponies strutted their stuff in the fine harness classes. The Friesians, with their flowing manes and tails, floated around the ring. In the Friesian pleasure class, Annika Bruggeworth took the championship, and Carson Kressley took home the reserve. The performance classes came to a close with the three-gaited Saddlebred class and the One-Armed Bandit.