By Marni Prichard Manko| April 20, 2015 |
The Devon Horse Show’s historic pageantry is filled with stylish hats, prize horses, and high-level competition.
The Devon Horse Show and Country Fair showcases myriad disciplines, including jumping, fox hunting, and dressage.
In its inaugural year, in 1896, the Devon Horse Show was a one-day event promoting good breeding for Main Line carriage horses, though its scale and scope would soon expand. By 1919, the first of the Country Fair booths was instituted, and Bryn Mawr Hospital was designated the beneficiary of the proceeds—which it remains to this day. Fast-forward almost a century later and Devon has evolved into two weeks of the highest-level equestrian competition, has become a staple of the Main Line social calendar, and, to date, has raised about $47 million, by the work of volunteers, to benefit the hospital.
“The Devon Horse Show and Country Fair is a Main Line and Philadelphia tradition,” says Gail McCarthy, senior cochair of the Country Fair. “It’s part of our community history. Devon offers something for everyone. It’s a top-level competition, family fun, shop-till-you-drop, eat-drink-and-be-merry good time. And it’s all for the benefit of Bryn Mawr Hospital. The show really is an amalgam of equestrians, local families, and philanthropically minded members of the community.”
Devon remains the longest-running, largest outdoor multi-breed horse show in the country. True equine lovers can sit in the grandstands at Dixon Oval—or in one of the 46 status symbol boxes—and get their fill of the competition, which ranges from Grand Prix jumpers to gaited horses. It’s also a two-week study in equestrian chic, with Lilly Pulitzer garb and muddy boots all stylishly colliding.
The granddaddy of all nights is the Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon. The crowd is huge, the grandstands are packed, and box-holders lavishly entertain their guests. It’s such a must attend event that people line up first thing in the morning just to nab a ringside seat. And on the first Sunday, there’s the Carriage Pleasure Drive, where beautiful antique carriages are judged at the show grounds and then progress along a two mile route through the streets of Devon. “It’s an homage to a bygone era and a spectacular sight,” says McCarthy.
Of course, being a blue-blooded Main Line staple, there’s always a big social component. The festivities kick off this year on May 20 with First Night at Devon, hosted at the Art Gallery, which is lauded as one of the best parties of the equestrian season. Ladies Day is always a big hit, where one-upping each other with creative hats has become a blood sport. Previous standouts include chapeaus topped with a working carousel, a show ring, even taxidermy birds.
There’s also fantastic boutique shopping, great dining options, entertainment, fair rides and games, and loads of special events such as live music in Clydesdale Corner, plus Children’s Day with free admission and special activities for families such as crafts, music, and face painting. May 21–31, 23 Dorset Road, Devon, 610-964-0550