Arena drawing attention of horse-fanciers
It took a while, but the Kiplinger Arena at the Red Willow County Fairgrounds in McCook is starting to be noticed by horse enthusiasts from throughout the United States.
A major step in that direction was taken this past weekend when more than 200 horses and their owners and riders descended upon McCook for the Sunrise Futurity, a barrel racing and pole bending event sponsored and promoted by Rhonda and Shane Hilker of Elwood.
The biggest event at the arena so far, the Sunrise Futurity brought people to McCook from California, Utah, Oklahoma, Minnesota, South Dakota, Washington, Texas and Mississippi, as well as the Tri-State Region of Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado.
"Everyone was thrilled," said Deb Lafferty, the Red Willow County Fair Manager. "The people from distant states said they had no idea there was such a nice facility out here in the middle of the nation."
Massive in size, the arena covers 45,000 square feet of space, including an open riding and exhibit area that is 250 feet long and 112 feet wide. Even so, work remains to bring the arena to full utilization. In the case of the Sunrise Futurity, more stalls were needed. "They had 64 stalls and we brought in 52 extra stalls from Colorado, but we still needed more," the Hilkers said.
From the start, the Red Willow County Fair Board and Tom Kiplinger, the donor, have known further investments in the facility will be needed. But they are pleased with how Kiplinger Arena is starting to take off.
"We have another event coming up this weekend," the fair manager said. Todd Thieszen of the McCook National Bank was instrumental in bringing the Nebraska Reining Horse Association event to the arena. Fifty horses are expected for the NRHA-sanctioned competition.
More activity is scheduled through October and November. The Heritage Horse Foundation will be at the arena Oct. 9-10, and the Sandhill Jumpers come to town Nov. 12-14. Also in November, Justin Nokes will begin roping competitions which will continue twice a month throughout the winter.
Other big events are on the horizon. Next June, the Nebraska Junior Angus Association will bring its 2005 show to the Kiplinger Arena.
In Field of Dreams -- a movie about a ball diamond in an Iowa cornfield -- the most memorable line was, "if you build it, they will come." It proved true in the movie. It's also proving true in the real life case of the Kiplinger Arena in McCook, Nebraska, USA.