Halloween With Horses
It doesn’t take a Doctoral degree to understand there is no shortage of things to do in Colorado.
Whether it is hiking, camping, skiing, professional sports, or even big-time power shopping, there’s no denying the Mile High state offers an explosion of leisure-time options. Against that backdrop of competition, the Colorado Horse Park (CHP) is faced with the daunting task of attracting the general public’s attention to equine offerings on its calendar, especially as summertime turns to the cold of autumn and winter.
Despite all the obstacles, the challenge of luring more than just horse enthusiasts is something the park successfully tackles each and every October, and Halloween With Horses is how it does it. The annual event is an interactive, fun-filled show designed for families that never attend another horse show all year, and the creative affair is its biggest draw of the year. The amount of families showing up in 2007 blew the doors off attendance in previous years, with a record-breaking crowd of nearly 15,000 people showing up to soak in an unseasonably warm Saturday in late October.
“We’re absolutely thrilled with the turnout,” said Rob Janson, CHP’s General manager, about the number of that swarmed the spacious grounds during 2007’s show. “Halloween With Horses is one of our anchor events. It finishes off our show season. It is the party of all parties.”
Spectators couldn’t agree more.
“We’ve been coming every year for the last five years. We don’t miss it,” said one father as he propped his two young sons on the rails to watch the popular horse costume contests up close and personal. The Moe family lives in the Parker area and doesn’t own horses, but the event draws them to the park every year and creates interest regarding all things horses in the hearts of his pair of sons.
According to CHP officials, that interest from the next generation is a large part of what the show is all about.
While the duo didn’t have a horse to call their own, the joy on their faces while they watched some in person was unmistakable.
“We’ve actually done a demographic study,” continued Janson on the topic about what type of people show up to the October-themed festival. “Without the documentation in front of me, I would guess probably 95 percent of everyone here doesn’t own a horse.”
Those thousands of visitors come to have fun and appreciate the horse in a family-friendly environment, and it works like a charm. Even though there is a dizzying variety of activities on the schedule ” a Haunted Stable of Terror, a trick-or-treat barn, pony riding, vendors, hot food galore, and a popular horse costume contest with a $1,000 grand prize up for grabs ” it is the horses that steal the show.
“I think the horses are cool,” said one nine-year-old as she leaned through the middle rails of the white fence surrounding the main arena. Her best friend had a similar opinion.
“I think horses are pretty,” the second girl offered with enthusiasm.
“We have done a few surveys, and the number one reason people come to Halloween with Horses is the horses,” said Christine DeHerrera about why the public turns out in droves every year. Deherrera is the Media Coordinator for the Colorado Horse Park, and she believes making horses accessible is key to bringing a new generation of fans into the equine fold.
“People are very interested in horses, whether they’ve ever ridden them or not,” DeHerrera added. “I think the success of books like ‘The Horse Whisperer’ and movies like ‘Seabiscuit’ show that people really love horses. An event like Halloween with Horses allows access to horses people don’t normally get. The number of spectators attending every October is amazing, especially when you consider it started (seven years ago) with just 50 people doing a horse costume contest.”
From 50 people to 15,000 ” that’s a lot of new fans being introduced to the world of horses. In a state like Colorado, where competition for leisure-time activity is fierce, Halloween With Horses is just what the doctor ordered.
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.