In 1974 the Branch River Riders Horse Club sponsored the first horse show to be held on Manitowoc County Expo grounds. A snow fence ring was erected in front of the only building on the property, with a hay wagon serving as the announcer’s stand.
As Expo developed, more buildings were constructed and a race track was built primarily for harness racing events. The Branch River Riders received permission to erect a permanent show ring inside the infield area of the track. Rope and show fencing were used for the ring while a tent was erected to serve as a food stand.
Eventually, a portable announcer and secretary stand was built, and loaned to the harness racing officials until they built their own. In 1977 the Branch River Riders constructed a permanent ring with cedar posts and wood rails. Wires were buried for the event timer and electricity for the food stand. Local horsemen’s groups began to move their shows to Expo.
In 1987 Expo tore down the ring in the infield due to stock car racing rules. After 13 years of successful horse shows, the pile of posts and boards left us homeless. The Branch River Riders Horse Club petitioned the Expo Board for a new location and was granted the site north of the horse barns. Because this area was very low and undeveloped, much work would be needed before it could be used.
In order to get enough money to buy the supplies to build a new ring, Horse-A- Rama was organized in late 1987. The four horse organizations active in Manitowoc County at that time joined forces. These organizations were the Branch River Riders Horse Club, the Timberline Horsemen, the Wisconsin Saddlebred Association, and the Manitowoc County 4-H Horse and Pony Project. Original committee members were:
- Bruce and Pat Kornely, Branch River Riders
- Jackie Luebke-Puetz, 4-H Horse and Pony Project
- Patti Papez, Timberline Horsemen
- Doris Brandl, Wisconsin Saddlebred Association
- Dan and Gloria Schaut, Branch River Riders
- Leroy and Jean Seiler, interested horsemen from Kewaunee
Spring of 1988 saw the first Horse-A-Rama event at the Manitowoc County Expo Center. The event was bustling with excitement and activity as people from all walks of life came to see and experience the ‘World of Horses.’ They were able to browse among a wide array of vendors displaying arts and crafts, fashionable clothing, horse equipment, professional photographers and could attend seminars presented by experts in the horse field. The horse barns were filled to capacity with various breeds of horses, all waiting to show off their special traits and talents to the enthusiastic crowds.
Through the efforts of many dedicated volunteers and the support from local businesses, the first Horse-A-Rama was more successful than even expected. The committee decided to continue the event, and over the years profits from the horse fair financed numerous projects to build and maintain a high quality horse show facility.
The horse fair style event was discontinued in 2016, when the Expo barn used as an indoor riding arena was condemned and demolished. Horse-A-Rama partnered with the Manitowoc County Expo and other generous donors to replace it with a beautiful new multi-purpose agricultural barn. The horse fair was also replaced, with smaller fundraising events – a tack swap in March, and a No Silver-No Sequins show on the first weekend in May – which continue to this day.