by Fred Hudson
It was an exciting day for the Standardbred Retirement Foundation, as it represented the harness racing industry in the 33rd annual Christmas in Middleburg parade on Saturday (Dec 3).
The SRF was among 76 parade participants that stretched out for more than two miles and consisted of more than 1,000 people that marched before an estimated 18,000 spectators.
The day was cold and windy, yet that didn’t prevent Maryland/Virginia driver Mark Gray from bringing his pacer, Art Simpson. During the parade Gray’s horse identified the SRF banner as the starting gate and followed it through the parade.
The spectators applauded and cheered the SRF members as we marched past them, passing out the gifts that were provided by the Hambletonian Society and the USTA.
After the parade Gray said, “When you come around the corner to enter the parade, it is like a ‘wow’ moment. You never expect to see that many people. It is just unbelievable.”
We were originally going to march with two banners, but due to the wind we felt that it would be unsafe to use the eight foot banner and instead we went with only the one smaller “adopt a horse” banner.
Joining the SRF, Gray and myself this year were outriders Garnett Gray (Jagger), Michelle Graham (Southern Rosa), Rachel Rhodes (Seadog Man) and Kayleigh Hirsh (Celtic Girl); Maryland/Virginia racing official Cheri Collison; Horse Welfare Legislative Liaisons Stephanie McKaughan, Susan Arrington and Megan Caulfield; and SRF supporters Janice Atwell, and Kaleigh and Micah Boyd.
Some of the other participants in the parade included Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, Senator Jill Vogel, the Washington Redskin cheerleaders, Shelia Johnson’s Salamander Resort, Ayrshire Farms, Miss Virginia, car clubs, marching bands, wineries, horse riding clubs, floats, canine groups, schools, alpacas and bagpipe marchers, including the Kena Shrine Highlanders who marched directly in front of SRF and acted as our escort.