The Story of Horse-A-Rama

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 old barn which was the only building on the property (located on the present midway area.)  A hay wagon served 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, we built a portable announcer and secretary stand which was 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. The Timberline Horsemen moved their show to Expo and the Manitowoc County 4-H Horse Project moved from Camp TaPaWingo to Expo.

In 1987 Expo tore down the ring in the infield due to stock car racing rules. When asked if they would replace it in a new area, Expo said “No.” 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. So, it was back to a snow fence ring and hay wagon announcer stand on the grass north of the cattle barn for two years.

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, setting a goal of building a high quality horse show facility. We began by installing culverts where the ring was to go and adding about 6 foot of fill. Once the area was level, volunteers from the horse organizations involved in Horse-A-Rama built the 140’ x 250’ show ring using treated wood 6 x 6 posts and 2 x 6 rails. Sand and sawdust were hauled in to make good footing for the show ring.

Next came the construction of a permanent show office and announcer stand on the south end of the show ring. In 1990 more culverts were buried to the east of the show ring to provide for parking and more usable space. Drainage was improved and electricity was run into the building. Upgrades were made to the old horse barn footing, new lighting installed and the interiors painted. More culverts were laid and fill hauled in to prepare for the 1993 construction of a new 60’ x 100’ horse barn. Again volunteers built 20 permanent stalls along the outer walls and Horse-A-Rama purchased 18 portable stalls for the center. We installed aluminum soffits and eves on all the horse barns. Vent fans were installed in the new barn. Several sets of bleachers were added for spectator comfort and safety.

In 1999 we purchased sleeves to cover the holes in the Walters Building when the posts and fencing were removed to open the space so we could use the entire interior area for our event demonstrations and horse shows on rainy days. This was also the year that Horse-a-Rama was incorporated.

In 2002 we received permission from the Expo Board to erect a 100’ x 154’ warm up ring north of our show ring, providing we rebuilt the road leading to the race track. Lighting was added between the show ring and the warm-up ring. Shortly thereafter, Expo moved the race track further south and more parking was developed in the area east of the ring. In 2003, Horse-A-Rama expanded the show office to include more food service and storage space. In 2005, we purchased a grooming rake so the Expo staff could properly prepare the show ring for horse shows that by now numbered 10 shows plus the County Fair. On a yearly basis, more sand and sawdust is added to the show ring to maintain proper footing and the PA system is continually updated.

Growing interest in Horse-A-Rama prompted the Board of Directors to apply for public charity status and in 2006 was granted a 501 (c) (3) designation.

We partnered with Expo in 2010 to purchase 16 portable stalls for use by parking horses during the fair and to provide extra stabling for events. Horse-A-Rama and Manitowoc County Expo have had a good working relationship in both hosting the Horse-A-Rama event and in improving & maintaining the equine facilities.

A list of major improvements can be found on the Accomplishments page.

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