March 2019 - We Are California!
Written by photos: MGO Photography
Friday, 01 March 2019 02:05
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Insane rains are no match for Area VI eventers celebrating 2018’s accomplishments.

photos: MGO Photography

New Area VI chairman Lisa Sabo began her term on a mission. “We’re not Young Riders. We’re not Adult Riders or High Performance riders,” she explains. “We are Area VI riders. We work together. We help each other. We are California and we are the best!”

Nowhere was that more clear than during the Area VI annual meeting and awards banquet, held Feb. 16 concurrent with the CCI and Horse Trials at the Fresno County Horse Park.

Concurrent also with the same ocean of rain that swept the state. The Horse Park’s riverbed sand is uniquely capable of providing good traction in wet weather, so the competition galloped on with nary a hitch. The big tent pitched on a hilltop for the banquet did not fare so well.

The tent blew over on Thursday, but the equipment rental company felt confident they could get it back up by Saturday. “When they came to get the tent equipment into the ground, it sunk,” Lisa explains. On Friday night, everybody hit the phones looking for a last-minute venue, and Lisa and the Horse Park’s John Marshall drove around Fresno searching for the same. They found it only a mile-and-a-half away. All hands were called on deck to set up the many silent auction displays, the audio and visual equipment and dress the tables. “Everything went off just fine,” says Lisa.

In fact, 250 people turned out and were treated to a special night, highlighted by Frankie Thieriot Stutes interviewing 2020 Olympic course designer and longtime rider and coach Derek DiGrazia. Both fit Lisa’s emphasis on celebrating local successes and the fact that Frankie and Derek have huge stories made it an informative and fun evening. “Some of the audience questions were addressed to Frankie, about riding Derek’s courses,” Lisa relays. The quiet enveloping the room during that conversation and others spoke volumes about the crowd’s interest. A lifelong friend of the famously quiet and modest Derek (and his wife Bea DiGrazia,) Lisa notes that “it was more than I’d heard Derek speak in my whole life!”

The make-shift banquet hall was adorned with California-themed banners and horse show mom extraordinaire Kristin Hogan kept the house rocking with California-themed tunes. Area VI is extra grateful to banquet sponsor Parker Equine Insurance and the many who donated to the silent auction that raised significant funds for the year.

Year-end Area VI competition awards were presented, along with special honors. Here’s a few highlights, compliments of MGO Photography.

Keynote speaker Derek DiGrazia

Christina Gray, Fresno County Horse Park secretary and organizer John Marshall; and Cheryl Gentzler, a member of the banquet organizing team.

Volunteer of the Year winner Todd Killalea, who won a Devoucoux Saddle complements of Sunsprite Warmbloods.

Current Area VI chair Lisa Sabo and her predecessor Chris Scarlett present organizers John Marshall, Fresno, and Twin River’s Andrea Baxter with special posters in appreciation for their work.

Overall Rider of the Year recipient Tamie Smith gives Lisa Sabo a lift.

Beginning Novice rider Sophie Merz, who took a few top honors with her horse Bird Is The Word.

Chris Scarlett receives much appreciation for her service as Area VI chair from 2016-2018.

Dawn Robbins accepts the Sportsman of the Year award. The recipient was chosen by Sunsprite Warmblood’s Don Trotter and Pamela Duffy, pictured with Dawn, and Terry and Linda Paine of Kingsway Farm.

Roger and Joelle Burnell accept the Owners of the Year award, with Roger making a short, moving acceptance speech. Their daughter and amateur rider Lauren Burnell joined them.

Leading amateur rider (and National 3* champion) Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Lisa Sabo.

Accomplished young rider Charlotte Babbitt and Lisa Sabo.