Horse and hound hoopla

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Johnson's Orchard draws a crowd

By Mike Forster

What do horses, dogs and wine have in common? 

Together, they drew more than 4,000 fans to Johnson’s Orchard for a sun-drenched day of fun.

It was difficult to discern what was the most popular attraction.  No bother, everyone in attendance seemed to be enjoying themselves.

A big hit was the canine agility course.  With varying degrees of confidence, pooches of all sizes attempted to navigate the gauntlet which included a balance beam, a tunnel and a pivoting board, among many others.

“The goal is to show, no matter the age, there’s always something (for an owner and dog) to do together,” said course coordinator Sandy Cummins.

The dog lover was wearing two hats, including being a rep for the Institute for Canine Therapeutic Programs.

Dogs from the organization were happy participants and were available for reading with children (No, silly, the dogs can’t read.  They are read to!).

Other dog-friendly events included races on both land and water.

The Parade of Horses was a popular feature among the crowd and featured about 20 stunning horses, including Palominos, Appaloosas, Miniatures, Shires and Missouri Fox Trotters, just to name a few.

The people’s choice winner was a Peruvian Paso:  EVP Quixote, ridden by Leah Coffman.

The ten-year-old Quixote, in addition to being quite the showman, is also a search and rescue horse, having participated in a recent rescue attempt of a lost hiker on the Appalachian Trail.

Less glamorous equine tasks were taken up, as well.  A pony gave a lift to young Amelia Fortsch, of Alexandria, as her grandparents looked on.  “The kids love it here,” said grandpa Paul Rhodes, of Bedford.  “Especially the pony rides and the dog agility run.”

With KD Country (105.5 FM) honcho Dave Haney belting out tunes, the crowds around the wine tents were in a mellow mood.

The following vintners had booths with free tasting:  Hickory Hill, Leo Grande, Peaks of Otter, Rebec, Savoy Lee, Tomahawk, White Rock and Wintergreen.

Each of those outfits served up several (up to six) types of wine in small samples.  So, the thirsty crowd had close to 40 types from which to choose.

Fred Sylvester, of White Rock Vineyards, noted that he only brings his product to four  festivals a year.  “We really think the world of Danny (Johnson) and this fest,” he declared.

Johnson, for his part, couldn’t be happier.  “I think it was very successful,” said Johnson after the event.  “We had a lot of wonderful people working and a great group of vendors and sponsors.”

He added, “I think this was our best one yet.”

During the festival, Johnson was a whirlwind of activity:  helping with parking, checking on supplies and checking in with staff.

In spite of this being his fifth year, Johnson noted that “I have yet to see a dog race or the horse parade.”

Not to worry, Danny.  In the eyes of all attendees, they were quite the shows.