SPRING GROVE – When Denise DeCicco started showing at the Spring Grove Horse Show, the events featured participants trying to catch greased pigs and raffles where a quarter horse was the first place prize.
The show has evolved over the 50 years of its existence to include eight shows throughout the year, including hunter competitions with horses cantering through a course of jumps, speed competitions, and competitions featuring the high steps and fancy footwork of dressage.
The lineup this year also includes a celebration July 27 to recognize the nonprofit’s 50th year, said DeCicco, who still rides and now serves as the president of the group’s board of directors.
DeCicco took over the presidency in 2008 at a time when it was thought the organization might fold, which would negate the agreement it has with the village of Spring Grove.
The group had gifted Spring Grove Horse Fair – a park located behind Spring Grove Elementary School where the shows are held and riders can take advantage of a free fenced arena – to the village with the understanding the group could continue to hold its events there, she said. At least two events must be held each year to maintain the agreement.
The organization now hosts eight events each year.
“My goal is just to keep it going for the enjoyment of the kids,” DeCicco said.
Ceara Mulvey, 13, of Johnsburg, has been showing at the Spring Grove Horse Show for about seven years, about as long as her friend, Kelsey Bergloff, 16, of Spring Grove, who she met through the shows.
“I’ve been showing here forever,” Mulvey said. “I like how we’re all really close. When I go to other shows, I know some people but not everyone, so you kind keep to yourself.”
Her mother, Joanne Mulvey, remembers being able to ride with her daughter – who she said is a much better rider and one so devoted she saved “every dime, nickel and penny” to buy her own horse – during a fun event.
They each held one end of a crepe-paper ribbon and raced their horses as fast as they could through a barrel course, trying not to drop or break the ribbon.
The horse show bills itself as a training show where riders can bring younger horses to get them used to crowds and newer riders can learn the ropes of how shows work, DeCicco said.
The proceeds from the events are donated to a variety of charities at the end of the year based on the requests the board receives, she said.
Over the years, the shows have provided funds toward the fire district’s first rescue squad, a police car, athletic uniforms and equipment at the nearby elementary school.
“It was such a learning experience and a joyous experience that I wanted to keep it going,” DeCicco said.