This weekend, the Kiplinger Arena at the Red Willow Fairgrounds in McCook was abuzz with horses and riders. Entries came from at least six states and they came to compete and enjoy. It is not unusual as the Kiplinger has become the go-to place year around for those of equine interests. This was a five-day reining event (Note your columnist was raised on a farm but we had milk cows and I’ve never learned the horse language) and the promoter told me that there were 160 horses present.
You may have noticed that remodeling has been taking place at the Fairgrounds the latest with the Alice Arena being doubled in length to something like 300 feet. The length will enable the ever popular barrel racing contests to take place. Also there will be chutes installed to do calf roping and steer wrestling. When completed that entire facility along with its counterpart the present Kiplinger arena will be the largest and best horse facility in Western Nebraska Eastern Colorado or Western Kansas and one has to travel to Rapid City, South Dakota, Grand Island at the State Fairgrounds or Cheyenne Wyoming to find its rival. Thanks to the generous donations of Tom Kiplinger, recently deceased, and the foresight of the Red Willow County Fair Board we now have one of the top horse destinations in the nation right here in Southwest Nebraska.
One of our local bankers stepped forward to run this five-day event. Hours and hours of dedication to make everything run smoothly. He told me that he will write a check in excess of $10,000 to cover arena rent, RV hookup fees, horse stall rent and more all covered by those who came to perform. Normally about half of the contestants stay in local motels, shop downtown on the bricks and eat in local restaurants. It is hard to get a handle on the economic impact to the local area but it has to be significant.
This morning when I walked into Deb’s office at the fairgrounds she was on the phone with a couple from Colorado who had participated this weekend. They just loved it the great facility and the small town atmosphere. They told Deb that for sure they would be back again and again.
Speaking of visitors, all are welcome. Horse speak not required. Just park and walk in the main entrance on the west side of the Kiplinger. Grab a seat in the bleachers no charge unless you indulge in a cup of coffee or a hot dog and or buy something from the tack shop there. Any of the western friendly spectators will gladly explain how the various contests work and how the contestants gain points in the competition. It is just fun to sit back and watch horse and riders in action.
I may be a tad prejudiced but I think that kids growing up in a rural environment have a leg up on maturing into moral productive adults. Livestock have to be tended to morning and evening, 365 days of the year. Up early in the morning to do chores, then off to school and again chores every evening. To participate in equine events requires practice practice practice to train the horse and tune the rider. Discipline — good kids — proud parents. Social justice just doesn’t factor into that kind of life.
Over 8,000 miles it is from Doha, Qatar to Wichita, Kansas. Yes that it the distance traveled last week by Air Force Captain Allison Smith, crew commander, who recently flew her KC-135 Air Refueling Tanker back home from being deployed to the Mideast theatre of conflict. No big step for a farm girl who grew up south of Culbertson and graduated from McCook High School.
My rough calculation is a distance of some 8,000 miles in two hops, one stop in England, in about 16 hours of flying time.
The next time you stop by the Hillside Perk in Culbertson you might give the tip of your hat to Marie and Bob Smith, co-owners and thank them for raising such a capable daughter.
Grannie Annie and I tripped to Oberlin to watch a performance by the Oberlin Area Concert Band in the Decatur County High School auditorium. The group is made up of talented musicians ranging in age from high school to white-haired and balding like me. Obviously, they enjoy sharing their love of music. Retired and current teachers, band directors, business persons, even a retired medical doctor and many are familiar faces. Their selections of the day included pieces of martial music that are my personal favorites. One piece, titled "Mekong," honored us Vietnam Veterans especially McCook’s Steve Keene percussionist who a spent a year with the Mekong Riverine Task Force. Tough duty hot humid and dangerous! Another, best of the show, a superb performance by a trumpet trio of two band directors and a preacher playing the Bugler’s Holiday-spirited and lively it brought the audience to their feet in applause. They are coming to the Fox Theatre in McCook on Dec. 3 for a Christmas Concert. Don’t miss it.
That is how I saw it.