The Napa Valley Horsemen’s Association celebrated its 75th birthday Saturday with wagon rides, rodeo performers, a barbecue, stick horse races and other activities under bright, blue skies.
Some 200 visitors, including neighbors who had never visited the state’s oldest horsemen’s association, stopped by to take part in the festivities at the group’s home off Foster Road near Napa.
Visitors included horse lovers of all ages, such as 8-year-old Isabella Clary.
“I love horses. It’s my favorite, favorite thing in the world!” Isabella said, She was clutching a new stick horse as she and her family waited by the barn for a wagon ride to tour the 32-acre property the association purchased in 1948 after spending its first nine years in Napa.
The horse-pulled wagons rode by the barn, then past the family-owned farm Building our Community through Agriculture (BOCA), which produces fruits and vegetables.
The wagons also stopped by the clubhouse, once a milking barn. There, guests were encouraged to climb off the wagon and visit the area reserved for Ag 4 Youth, where disadvantaged and at-risk students between the ages of 9 and 19 raise animals to be sold at the Napa Town and Country Fair in July, including two steers.
Founded in 1939, the association now has about 130 members, president Mark Evans said before the start of the afternoon horse show after a tri-tip and hot dog barbecue.
The show included performances by the Painted Ladies Rodeo Performers of Folsom, Larry Braun of Petaluma riding the Peruvian Paso horse TLA Amada, and children riding stick horses.
“This is a resource for all of us,” said County Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht at the start of the show, referring to the association. “It is right in our own backyard here, in Napa.
Volunteer members said they all share a love of horses. The club’s activities these days include a monthly potluck, an annual crab feed and horse shows.
“We’re happy to share with the community today our 75th birthday,” said Gina Massolo, 36, a regional manager for a hotel management company and a past president of the Horsemen’s Association. She has been riding horses since age 5 and joined the organization in 2009.
“It’s a social club. You’re around other horse people,” said Massolo, as she greeted visitors at the gate.
The association also continues to evolve. On Sunday, the volunteers are dismantling the 1948 arena, to replace it with a new, modern one, replacing the old wooden fence with steel pipes.