As spectator-funded competitions wrestle with the realities of running an event in COVID-19 times, Devon Horse Show and Country Fair organizers have announced the show’s return on May 27-June 6 to Devon, Pennsylvania. The horse show took a mandatory hiatus in 2020 thanks to the pandemic.
“We want to hold Devon,” said David Distler, who co-manages the show with Peter Doubleday. “We were very upset last year when we had no choice but to cancel. I hold Devon close and dear to my heart. It’s a wonderful event. It’s getting back on the map for open [jumper] riders, which is a wonderful thing. We have a lot of challenges ahead of us.”
One of those major challenges is that Devon runs alongside a popular country fair that financially supports the horse show. Organizers are planning to go ahead with the country fair, which is run by more than 2,000 volunteers. However, it’s not clear if spectators will be allowed to attend. Distler said daily spectator counts for the previous editions of Devon were somewhere between 8,000 and 14,000, and he estimates on a busy grand prix night there will be 10,000 people in attendance.
“I’ve talked to the [U.S. Equestrian Federation] about it and any changes they might be making in the coming months [regarding their no spectator rule],” said Distler. “They’re hoping that [some spectators will be allowed]. It’s not clear how many we can take, if it will be 10 percent, 20 percent, 50 percent or by some miracle everybody.”
Devon sits near three townships in Pennsylvania: Easttown, Radnor and Tredyffrin. Management has been working with all three to make the show happen.
“Our chairman Wayne Grafton is doing most of the work with the state and within the townships, whereas Peter and myself are doing work with the USEF,” Distler said. “We’re trying to make it work. We want it to happen very badly.
“We’re going to follow whatever protocols the USEF requires us to follow,” he continued. “If we have to do temperature checks as people come in, we’ll be doing that. I’m sure we’ll have people patrolling the grounds keeping people separate and setting up the office and judges’ stands to keep anyone separate.”