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Turn of the century event comes alive at the fairgrounds with horse drawn carriages

By Staff | Jul 10, 2012

Cindy Fletcher from Harpursville, New York gets ready to drive through the 'Town and Country' obstacle course at the annual Susquehanna Valley Whips and Wheels Pleasure Driving Show and Horse Driving Trial held June 23 and 24 at the Hughesville Fairgrounds.

HUGHESVILLE – The Hughesville Fairgrounds hosted a most unusual event over the weekend of June 23 and 24. An organization dedicated to promoting the art and sport of carriage driving held several competitions for spectators to enjoy. Known as the Susquehanna Valley Whips and Wheels (SVWW), the club was started in 1994 when Susan Andrews from Cogan Station enlisted the help of Jeff and Beth Kelchner from Montgomery along with Wayne and Ruthann Gavitt of Forksville. They realized that the possibility of forming a carriage driving club had enough local interest to develop a regional club here in North Central Pennsylvania. Their first meeting was attended by more than two dozen carriage driving enthusiasts. The first club pleasure drive was held in Rose Valley and membership grew with members from New York, Maryland, Virginia and even Colorado.

In the fall of 1998 the first carriage competition was held at Montanvale Farm in Forksville at the Gavitt’s home. Pleasure driving shows and clinics have been their main focus and a show committee was selected to oversee many of the events. The competitions give the public a chance to see how horse drawn carriages were once part of everyday life. “You may find something like this in a city driving into town during carriage days in the 1800’s,” said Kelly Pentz, Secretary of the organization. “In the 20’s it petered out with the Model Ford,” said Jackie Zaloga from Benton.

On that Saturday and Sunday in Hughesville, several members dressed in period attire competed in their fifteenth annual carriage driving show. A welcome reception was held with a reserved dinner served on Friday evening under the covered cattle arena.

According to President, Tina Cornell from Bloomsburg, it is fairly reasonable to enter the shows for each class. The Hughesville Fairgrounds rents out stalls on the grounds for the horses which was one of the drawing cards to locate the competitions at that location. “We have our show here once a year,” said Pentz. “There are good facilities here and stables.”

A prize and six ribbons were awarded in each class on both days of the competition. Divisions were open to animals and equines 14.2 hands and under. Close to 35 entries came as far away as Pittsburgh, Delaware and Canada.

As with most organizations, there were general rules and guidelines to follow. For example in all classes, drivers were expected to wear a hat or helmet, an apron,or knee rug, and gloves. “An appropriate driving whip shall be carried in hand at all times while driving,” according to the show committee. Classes were judged accordingly to appropriate performances, many with structured obstacles and timed courses to follow. There is even a Ladies Driving Class based on the “suitability of the turnout for a lady with emphasis on manners”, and a Gentlemen’s Driving Class which is judged primarily on the “turnout for a gentleman with emphasis on manners.” One of the most popular competitions is the Carriage Dog Class that judges “the dog’s pleasure and suitability as a carriage companion.” The dog may be seated, may stand or run beside, behind or at the axle of the carriage. But the dog cannot interfere with the driver or be restrained in any way.

From its inception, the SVWW has been dedicated solely to the sport of carriage driving, whether it be for pleasure, competition or the collecting of horse drawn carriages and is open to all who have an interest in carriages and carriage horses and ponies.”We are open to anyone who has an equine with four legs,” said Pentz. For more information, visit their website at svwwdriving.com