The Wichita Eagle
By Denise Neil
The fair is particularly proud of its studs this year. And why shouldn’t it be? Studs (and all their horsey relatives) are among the fair’s most popular draws.
From the horse barn to the pony rides to the daily horse shows and competitions, the Kansas State Fair offers all sorts of horsing around. A cowboy-hat-wearing, pickup-truck-driving stallion even graces the fair’s publicity material this year, offering potential fairgoers a tempting invitation: Check out the studs.
A horse seemed like an obvious pitchman for the fair, said Shelley Downs, a brand manager for the fair’s publicists, the Greteman Group, which in past years has urged fairgoers to “hang with the hogs” and “pick up some bunnies.”
“One of the main reasons people go to the fair is to see the animals and pet the animals,” she said. “It’s always a lot of fun to personify them.”
As a playful touch, the Greteman Group added to this year’s official state fair guide daily lists of studly activities, all involving horses. Recommendations included last Sunday’s quarter horse show, Tuesday’s horse training demonstrations and Wednesday’s mule and donkey show.
The most popular horse-related event at this year’s fair, though, is the Cavallo Equestrian Acrobatics show, which is performed daily at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in Gottschalk Park.
The show features five acrobats performing circus-like stunts on horseback. A curly-haired woman in a jangly dress hangs perilously from the side of a galloping horse. One of her partners juggles knives and flaming torches while standing on horseback. One acrobat stands on the back of a trotting horse while a second acrobat stands upright on the first’s shoulders.
Ermes Zoppe, one of the acrobats, is part of a Florida-based family that’s been performing on horseback for seven generations.
He and his two brothers are among the Cavallo performers who tour nine months out of the year, along with seven horses of various breeds, to fairs and festivals across the country.
People love the stunts, he said, but they really love the animals.
“They’re very loyal,” he said after the show, stroking his quarter horse, Maverick. “They can be your best friends or your worst enemies. You have to treat them right.”
Sally and Dwight Downing of Salina crowded into Gottschalk Park on Thursday afternoon to watch the Cavallo show with their grandsons, Damon, 4, and Zach, 2.
The boys love the animals at the fair, Sally said, and horses are a special draw.
“As a grandparent, I’m interested in horses, and I’m interested in my grandkids being around them and seeing them up close,” she said. “They’re wonderful animals.”
© The Wichita Eagle, 2009