It’s May. June is on its way. And that means the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair is coming up soon. This is a long-standing show, very popular on the East Coast, with deep roots in the Standardbred community. In fact, a Standardbred is the logo for the show. It’s also a very hunter-focused show. But it’s well worth attending, even if you’re not into the hunter scene. If you’ve never been, here are a few insights to help you make the most of your time at the show.
Go With Friends
Devon is much more fun, and more logistically manageable, when you go with a group. There are usually about eight or ten of us, depending on the year. The stalwart group goes from Thursday through Sunday at the end of the show, which runs for just under two weeks. Others come for a little less time over the same days, leaving early or coming later as their schedule requires.
Yes, it’s mundane, but you have to get there in order to enjoy the show. If you have a priority parking pass, show it to the police who are directing traffic, and they can point you to the right place. If you don’t have a pass, there is paid parking at the nearby train station, and in some of the businesses’ lots along the road. You pay in advance, cash only, and can leave whenever you like.
It usually looks pretty crazy when everyone leaves at the end of the evening performance, but have faith. These people are well versed in moving everyone through. Just remember to use your signal so they know where you want to go, and be patient. You’ll get there.
Check Out the Schedule
The show lasts for just under two weeks. There are a variety of divisions, from local Pennsylvania junior hunters, all the way to Grand Prix jumpers. So check out the online schedule, and see what parts of the competition appeal most to you. During the day, it’s mostly hunters, along with Saddlebreds, Hackney ponies, and other smaller divisions. Evenings are where the jumpers come out, along with a variety of demonstrations. This year includes an eventing demonstration, as well as the Budweiser Clydesdales, coach driving, and natural horseman Guy McLean.
Remember the Other Rings
Yes, the Dixon Oval is the main arena. But there’s a lot of competition action in the Gold Ring. And the activity in the warm-up ring is always buzzing. Plus, your proximity to the competitors and grooms is very close in the warm-up, and they are generally very friendly. Don’t get sucked into watching just the activity in the Dixon Oval. Remember to visit the other areas.
Buy Tickets in Advance
If you’re able to plan ahead, order your tickets in advance, online, and have them mailed to you. That is the best way to make sure you get tickets for the days you want to attend, and that you get the seating you want. Tickets are also available at the box office when you arrive. But you may not get the best choice if you wait until the day of to buy your tickets.
Box seats at the Dixon Oval have been passed down for generations. But don’t despair! There are plenty of grandstand seats available. Given the likelihood for bright and relentless sunshine, it’s nice to have access to some grandstand shade while you watch the show. You don’t have to buy seating, if you prefer to just walk around, and watch from the rail when there’s space available.
Be prepared to make grandstand friends, especially in the evenings when the crowds are heavier. Seats are great, but they aren’t particularly large, so you’ll be sitting pretty close to your new Devon acquaintances. Strike up a conversation, lend them an Order of Go if you have one, and make a friend.
Remember that there are different tickets required for the day and evening programs. If you have both on a given day, you won’t have to leave, and can stay during the lull in the action. Actually, that break is a great time to go shopping, so you don’t miss anything.
The Information Desk
This is where you can buy programs, rent headsets (for running commentary during the show), and pick up an Order of Go (get one early because sometimes they run out). It’s just inside the entrance gates, across from the Devon souvenir stand (see below). It’s also a good designated meet up spot if you get separated from your group during the day. In the evenings, it’s just too crowded to use for that purpose, so choose another spot.
What to Wear
Be comfortable! It can get pretty hot, so go with whatever keeps you cooler. You are allowed to wear sandals, but be mindful that you’re at a horse show, and sometimes sandals aren’t the best choice, for a variety of reasons. For evening performances, people in the box seats can get pretty decked out. But don’t worry. You’re shorts and t-shirt are still just fine.
If it rains, you’ll appreciate having a grandstand seat because it’s covered. FYI, box seats are not covered. Just remember to bring a rain coat and hat, but leave your umbrella at home, please!
Dogs are allowed at Devon, but only on a leash. And you will see lots of them. Just remember, if you’re there all day, it can get pretty hot and tiring for your puppy. There’s even a hashtag #dogsofdevon. So mark your social media posts accordingly.
Many of the competitors stay in the barns located on the show grounds. Horses are available for viewing, and riders/grooms are available for questions. Just remember: when the aisle is not cordoned off, then you are free to go in and look around. If there is an aisle guard up, please respect that the horses, riders, and grooms may need some rest from all the activity. And as always, do not feed show horses, because they have very strict diets.
Shopping — Show Logo Wear
The entire show is a benefit for the Bryn Mawr Hospital, so there’s a big focus on logo gear to show your support. That’s because all the proceeds of the sale of logo wear goes to support the hospital, and the kiosk is staffed entirely by volunteers. They do offer limited discounts toward the end of the show, but I don’t recommend waiting to get a deal, because you will likely not be able to get what you want. Popular items and sizes often sell out before the end of the show. I actually make this one of my first stops as soon as we arrive.
Shopping — Equestrian Gear
There are a variety of vendors at the show. The ones with an equestrian focus are mostly located behind the grandstands. Dubarry is always there, with the long suffering guy standing in the dishpan of water. But there are also local saddleries there, selling breeches, shirts, bits, fly spray, etc. And once in a while, you’ll discover something new, like the RS brand, Italian custom coolers. I’m still drooling!
Shopping — Everything Else
You’ll find almost anything else you could want too. There is clothing, jewelry (fine and costume), hats worthy of the Kentucky Derby, antiques, and irreverent cocktail napkins. One of my favorites is the engraver and leather craftsman in the far back corner of the barns. Best of all, if you visit them early in the show, you can pick up your personalized purchases before you go home. Most of the vendors return year after year, and conversations sound like old friends catching up.
Food for Purchase
I’ll admit it. I have to be very disciplined about what I eat in the weeks before going to Devon because this trip is a food crime and a half! There are the usual funnel cakes and lemonade. But Devon will also widen your waistband with delicacies like fried Oreos and fried Nutter-Butters (my personal favorite). Be prepared to share your order with someone because there’s no way you can finish it on your own!
Bring Your Own Food
If you want to be a little more controlled about what you eat, or if you’re going to be at the show for several days (or even all day one day), you may want to bring your own food. It’s not nearly as daunting as it sounds! We pack two coolers: one with drinks, and one with food. All we bring with us when we drive up are empty coolers (with wheels, of course!). Then we stop at Wegman’s and stock up on what we’re in the mood to eat that day. If you’re not familiar with Wegman’s, it’s the mother of all grocery stores. They literally have anything and everything you could possibly need. It’s even where we get our morning coffee and breakfast, which we eat as we’re walking around the store.
This is where that group of grandstand seats comes in handy. When we bring our coolers in with us, we carry them up to our seats and leave them there for the day. By the end of the evening, the coolers are mostly empty, and they are easy to roll back to the car.
If you come to Devon with kids in tow, or if you’re just a big kid yourself, there are carnival games to play when you just can’t take one more repeat of the same jumping course. Buy your tickets at the ticket kiosk nearby. But I don’t know what you’re gonna do with the goldfish you get if you can throw a ping pong ball in the bowl.
Remember, this is largely a hunter show, so proper etiquette is key. Your fellow spectators will appreciate it if you wait until a rider’s round has finished before leaving your seats in the grandstand.