Every year, towards the end of May, beginning of June, Pennsylvania becomes the centre of attraction for all horse lovers in the US and equestrian sports throughout the world. The Devon Horse Show (also known as The Devon Horse Show and Country Fair) is both the oldest and the largest outdoor multi-breed horse competition in the USA.
Origins and early days of the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair
The early days of the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair go back as far as 1896. Its origins are related to the initiative of the gentlemen of the Main Line area, those who lived in a newly built-up zone in the west of Philadelphia. This area grew in parallel to the expansion of the railway line system, leading the population outside of Philadelphia, to the farmlands and small towns. At that time, people who migrated to this new area had no other choice but to use horses as means of transport: to travel to town, to the market, to church… The idea of the Main Line gentleman was to organize an event that would celebrate horse-riding as a sport. This idea became a reality, with the first Devon horseshow being held on 22 May 1896.
The show’s beginnings were very humble, gathering thirty races in one day. But soon, the demand increased and, by 1914, the Devon Horse Show became the most popular horse-related event in the US. Even during the first World War, the decision was taken not to cancel the event, but to use it to raise funds to support the US army. Nowadays, the fund-raising aspect of the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair is one of its key characteristics, serving as a fundraiser for Bryn Mawr Hospital in Pennsylvania.
The “Country Fair” part of the event was added in 1919, at the same time as the Bryn Mawr Hospital was selected as the main beneficiary of the show. Since then, the hospital has been given over 15 million dollars, thanks to the funds raised at the event. Furthermore, that time coincided with the development of women’s rights; the involvement of women in the Main Line area gave them a chance to stand out and show what they were capable of.
Over the course of more than a century, the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair has increased in popularity as well as in size. By 1938, Devon was capable of providing enough stables for 600 horses.
Today, the Devon Horse Show is renowned on an international level as one of the most important horse-related shows in the USA. Though it has become more modern, it has kept its traditions which make it so unique and attractive.
What to expect in 2019?
From May 22 to June 2, 2019, starting at 08:00am and closing at 10:00pm, the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair will hold usual, as well as, special events. Amongst the ones that cannot be missed:
- First Night at the Devon Art Gallery, on May 22, celebrating art, horsemanship and philanthropy.
- Family Day, on May 23 (on May 28, the Family Day also includes a free guided back barn tour); Family days include special offers on food and souvenirs.
- The Devon Dog Show on May 23 (evening event), displaying an exciting exhibition and including a number of classes.
- Radnor Fox Hounds, on May 25 (evening event), featuring the oldest continuously active foxhound in the country.
- Shetland Pony Steeplechase, on May 27 (afternoon event), a tradition that is very popular in Europe.
- Tribute to Heroes, on May 27, honouring the community’s heroes.
- Ladies Day, on May 29, a tradition that dates back to the early 1900’s.
- Children’s Day and Plant sale, on June 2, with many activities for kids of all ages like cupcake decorating, planting flowers in a teacup along with a storyteller.
The Devon Horse Show and Country Fair is the oldest and largest outdoor multi-breed horse competition in the United States. A 10-day event that gathers horse lovers from around the world, with something for everyone, whatever their age.