By MARCELLA PEYRE-FERRY
Special to Tri County
EASTTOWN - After 111 years, you have to expect some things will change, and that includes the historic Devon Horse Show and Country Fair.
The blue and white color scheme to the barns and grandstands, the lemon sticks and the traditional Devon fudge all remain just as fans remember, but this year brings an expanded schedule, and improvements for horsemen and horsewomen that will make sure Devon is the place to be.
"We will never break with the traditions of Devon," said horse show President Wade McDevitt. "I think Devon is a wonderful show. We could probably exist forever as we are, but be want to continue to improve. You have to adapt and change."
The two biggest changes spectators will notice are the inclusion of an 11th day to the show schedule, and a new starting time for the highlight of the show, the $75,000 Grand Prix of Devon.
"No one likes change, but there is such a thing as positive change," Mc-Devitt said. "The way we frame it is opportunity."
The Devon Horse Show runs through June 3. This is the first time the show has included a second Sunday of events, and it will be dedicated to classes for local riders. Though Local Hunters have long had a division at Devon, they competed mainly in the Gold Ring. This change gives them the chance to ride in the prestigious Dixon Oval in front of the grandstands.
"The motivation was to give the locals the opportunity to get into the Dixon Oval," McDevitt said. "We wanted to give them the exposure."
He hopes that adding a new day will also add opportunities for area riders. He has plans for instructional clinics in the Gold Ring, where riders can learn tips from the professionals, and other visitors and interested horsemen and horsewomen can learn by auditing the clinics from ringside.
Grand Prix night is always the busiest day at Devon, and this year, spectators will have even more to enjoy than usual. Instead of starting the evening session with the jumping event, as has been traditional in the past, the activities will begin earlier with Saddlebred and coaching classes starting at 5 p.m. The jumpers will take center stage in the Dixon Oval under the lights as the final class of the evening, beginning about 8:30 p.m.
"The riders have always had an issue riding in daylight, then some starting after dark," McDevitt said. Lighting can be an important factor in how the horses see the jumps and judge distances. With the later start, all the riders, whether they are first or last in the order of go, will be under the same lighting conditions.
There are some other, less noticeable changes to the competition schedule that may also interest visitors. Saddlebred horses in western competition are returning for their second year at Devon, and there are two new classes for single horse in harness on May 29.
"We try to live up to our mission statement and be an all-breed show," McDevitt said.
While the visitors are enjoying new sites, the horsemen and horsewomen will be enjoying improvements made just for them. There are four new barns this year, and nine barns have had their electrical wiring redone. The new footing that was well-received in the main arena last year has been expanded to the Gold Ring as well, improving conditions for the horses.
Over the years, the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair has raised more than $12 million for its beneficiary, the Bryn Mawr Hospital.
For more information, call the ticket office at 610-688-2554.