OSHKOSH, WI—That’s a wrap on the first annual Dairyland State Futurity Horse Show and organizers were less than circumspect in their evaluation of the event’s first go-around.
At a press conference following the highly awaited English Pleasure National Championship class on Sunday evening, Chief Executive Officer Rob Nowak didn’t mince words.
“It’s 2:45 in the morning, we’ve just wrapped the final class of a very long week, we had two riders fall off on their way into the line-up, and—as you can see here—our winner has actually drifted off to sleep,” gestured a red-eyed Nowak from the podium. “I think we can all see that we have some work to do here.”
Held from September 7–12 at the Winnebago County Fairgrounds, the much-touted “Dairyland” Show promised to be a new, multi-discipline event featuring the best hunter/jumper, western, and saddle seat combinations from the Wisconsin and Great Lakes region. According to Nowak, however, the unprecedented flooding of two outdoor arenas left only the indoor coliseum available for the well over 100 classes scheduled to run throughout the week.
“As a result, we were showing into the small hours of the morning, every day, for six days straight,” Nowak said.
“We had Park classes running at 3 a.m. on Friday. One rider was so fried he got racked off right into the stands. Our food and beverage service was abysmal. They didn’t have power all week, the generators kept failing, and the only thing they managed to serve was cold cheese and mustard sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Our EMTs were working overtime; we basically had to set up a triage station outside the coliseum. We just kept dragging riders onto the gurneys and out of the arena. Nobody was seriously injured, thank God, but there were so many close calls.
“We had horses running loose around the grounds 24/7. All three judges went on strike multiple times, and one suffered a nervous breakdown on site and had to leave early to check herself into a psych clinic. We had to put out a fire—an actual fire—in the horse show office. And at one point, our announcer Dave was shouting so much profanity across the PA system that he had the pony kids in tears.
“I’m not exaggerating; it was like Sodom and Gomorrah in there,” sighed Nowak, taking a long, deep pull from a brown bag at his podium. “I never want to see anything like that again.”
On a more hopeful note, Nowak added in closing, he plans to go back to the drawing board with his team to return with a “totally re-vamped” version of the Dairyland State Futurity Horse Show in 2022. Top on his to-do list: an entirely different venue in a different state, all-new catering services, a “totally reworked” concept and event schedule, all new prize offerings, a new name and marketing plan, and more.
When a reporter asked if that meant that the Dairyland State Futurity Horse Show would not, in fact, be returning in any semblance of its former self, Nowak conceded the point.
“Look, we’re just being honest. I think if you poll anyone from the show organizers to the competitors, the judges, trainers, parents, or event staff, we’re all just looking to forget what happened here.
“It sucked. From start to finish, it just plain sucked.”