The Inquirer headline screams the bad news. Devon Horse Show is 86’d for a second year. However, Savvy Main Line broke the news before the articles and blog posts started.
And this is devastating news. The Devon Horse Show isn’t just about a tradition that has survived two World Wars, it’s a beloved player in the equestrian world. (The equestrian world in my opinion is shrinking in this area due to development, but that’s a conversation for another day.)
See the screenshot just above? This is interesting blog post to read. I don’t know the author.
I will note that there is a lot of misinformation going around in local Facebook groups about The Devon Horse Show. And I think it is a horrible disservice to all parties involved to put forward false information. That’s why I haven’t blogged about this personally until today. I’m not a Devon insider so I don’t know why exactly the show was canceled other than I believe it is the Covid19 world in which we live that is the reason at the end of the day. Essentially I wanted to think about this for a few days.
But for some to take the knee jerk reaction and try to blame ongoing zoning and other issues around the horse show for the cancellation is patently false information. That has nothing to do with this decision and the Devon Horse Show in and of itself has not so much to do with the current zoning issues either in my opinion. And that’s not to say that there haven’t been zoning issues about the horse show itself because there have been.
The zoning kerfuffle has always been in part about about the residents who live around the horse show who don’t want everything around the horse show super sized and overly urbanized. They don’t want the horse show to go away they just don’t want development to overrun everything.
I think that is perfectly reasonable and I have good friends who live within the shadow of the horse show and have for years. It’s a lovely area that is facing extinction because of development. Those people are trying to preserve what makes the area special including the horse show. And just because some of these people also have had issue with the head of the horse show over things like the ongoing BS with boxes, whisper down the lane wants to blame THEM for the horse show being cancelled? (Follow this LINK to an article where Devon was taken to court over the box issue…and LOST.)
Come on! I am not a fan of what some of the Devon Horse Show had evolved into in the past few years complete with the ridiculous women who don’t know one end of the horse from the other showing up in all their tacky glory for Ladies Hat Day which used to be truly lovely, but even I am concerned about Devon.
But even with my concern about Devon because of the past fond memories I actually have, I’m not going to run around and blame the neighbors. That’s crap.
No one could have predicted a global pandemic, but I think plenty could have predicted future problems with Devon Horse under current leadership.
Maybe, just maybe, the keyboard critics could get off their proverbial high horses and take a long hard look at Devon and it’s financial structure and current leadership and maybe decide from there how to save it. Because it’s going to need saving.
When I was growing up Devon to me meant summer was here. And my friends and I would go in our old school Lilly Pulitzer and Vested Gentress dresses and Eskil’s clogs or Pappagallo espadrilles and khakis or jeans and wander the then much smaller vendor area and midway.
We would stop and get Devon fudge to take home, check out the antique dealers booths, the hospital’s thrift shop booth in what seems like an old spring house across from the burgers, ride the Ferris wheel and then go to the stands and watch the horses go round and round from someone’s family box. One of my favorite things were when the carriages would enter the ring and the majestic Clydesdales. It was so exciting.
I used to love Devon Horse Show. I remember things like the person who used to have cool antique prints next door to the woman who would bring her Jack Russells who would hang out in her booth. Or all of the years getting a Devon burger and hanging out at the picnic tables watching the world go by. And Betty Moran there to greet you in that booth next to where you entered the show.
I stopped consistently going to Devon Horse Show in 2012. I actually went to the fall classic show a few times between then and Covid19. I liked that show. It was more chill then the see and be seen that May Devon had morphed into.
A great little history of the show can be found at:
One of the Devon related events that I was honored to attend was October, 2015. It was the dedication of the Devon Horse Show historical marker. I still have never understood why the horse show seemingly found it so objectionable, but the sign actually had to be placed across Lancaster Avenue from the horse show. A few of my friends, including the late Michael Morrison, poured their hearts and souls into getting the marker erected. The dedication ceremony was October 2015.
I will note this is not the only time in its history that Devon has not had a horse show. There was no show between 1900 and 1910. In 1918, with the US in World War I the show was supposed to be cancelled, but apparently a much smaller show instead happened. The show that year benefited emergency aid and war relief. According to the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society it was the following year in which Bryn Mawr Hospital became the recipient charity for the first time. During the Second World War there was no show 1943, 1944, 1945.
The Devon Horse Show is a beloved tradition. If the show’s nouveau patrons and box holders continue to support the show even through these closures, I think the show will survive. But the thing is this: are the people today who pretend to be philanthropic really as philanthropic as those who came before us? Because that’s in my opinion one of the things that is going to have to happen for this show to survive and come back: philanthropy.
I also feel that for the Devon Horse Show to come back and thrive they need to make peace with their neighbors for real. There also needs to be more transparency on the part of the horse show on the financials. Break all of the costs down, and work out future scenarios, maybe go more back to basics? Go a little retro?
Devon can survive. But perhaps the decision to hold off another year will end up giving the horse show folks the gift of reflection? Maybe they need a new Chairman? I realize some people will think I’m being horrible by saying that, but I don’t see how the show has been well …..consistently thriving under his leadership. And I’m entitled to that opinion.
Here’s hoping Devon uses this cancellation to improve, and step forward to an even better future. Get back to the tradition.
Thanks for stopping by.