Street Fair sponsorship of horse shows to terminate this year; but they’ll still go on

A blindfolded Joel Moeller trips as he crosses a barrier during a competition held without horses on what would have been the equestrian portion of the Bluffton Free Street Fair Thursday evening at the multi-purpose barn at the 4-H Park. He was being led by Wes Conner. (Photos by Dave Schultz)


It may be somewhat fitting that the last event of the last year of the Bluffton Free Street Fair’s equestrian program didn’t even involve horses.

Instead of the Good Time Charlie event in the grandstand area of the 4-H Park, participants conducted some humans-only events in a small arena on the western edge of the park.

From left to right, Jill Jacobs, Cathy Neu, and Cindy Zook say the equestrian show will continue next September, even if it is not formally associated with the Bluffton Free Street Fair.

While organizers Cindy Zook, Cathy Neu, and Jill Jacobs talked about the changes in the horse events after this year, pickup trucks were pulling trailers out of the park as the horses were heading home.

“2021 will be the last year for the equestrian events at the Street Fair as we have known it,” Neu said. However, she said, “2022 will be as good, if not better.”

The Street Fair board of directors, looking to cut costs, decided the equestrian program would be dropped from the Street Fair in the future. The organizers said George Moore, president of the fair, and Mike Downey, the fair’s manager, gave them the news earlier this year. An agreement was made where the fair would pay half of the $3,200 rental fee this year and also pay for the judges for the competitions held earlier this week.

After that, Neu said, “the horses are done with the Street Fair.”

If there is any cooperation between the horse program and the fair, it would come in the form of insurance coverage. Horse show leaders hope an agreement can be reached on coverage, but a decision on that will wait until after the first of the year.

Meanwhile, the horse program will do it alone. The 4-H Park has already been reserved for next year and it will be reduced from the six days (including one day off) it ran this year to four days (Wednesday through Saturday) in 2022.

Some other cost-cutting measures were taken this year. For instance, the number of awards was reduced, “many of them that had been given out for years,” Neu said.

The events that have been part of the Street Fair equestrian show were the competitions last Saturday (halter and pleasure classes) and Sunday (driving, in-hand trail, obstacle courses, and speed events). Non-competitive events included the Little Buckaroo show on Monday, the Casey Biberstine Memorial Show for riders 10 to 18 years of age on Wednesday, and the Good Time Charlie Show Thursday night. The weather forced the cancellation of Wednesday and Thursday night’s events, leading to Thursday night’s indoors horseless show.

The equestrian program has long been part of the Bluffton Free Street Fair. It was held in the area where Kehoe Park is now before moving out to the 4-H Park years ago.

The show allows riders who have aged out of 4-H to participate in equestrian events. “People come here from all over the area,” Zook said.

Asked to name another equestrian event not connected to 4-H in the area, Zook, Neu, and Jacobs said the Wabash Saddle Club has a benefit event over Labor Day for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Part of the program supports the club’s activities. That was all they came up with.

No particular fundraising is planned at this time to support the 2022 equestrian program.