Mid-West carriage enthusiasts gather in the Chien
The 39th annual Carriage Classic was held this past weekend in Prairie du Chien. Villa Louis played host to approximately 120 competitors. This year the competition saw a couple competitors from Texas, New York, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
“The Villa Louis Historic Site was a horse racing farm (in the mid 1800’s). It’s a beautiful park down here on the island in Prairie du Chien. The local people that had horses decided to come down here and use the park,” Carriage Classic Show Manager Mike Rider, said.
The horse-drawn carriage competition started in 1981 on the Villa Louis grounds. It started out as carriage lovers having fun, driving around and playing games. Over the years, it has evolved into a competition. “The local people that had horses decided to come down here and use the park,” Rider, said.
It has been held the weekend after Labor Day because of a gap in the tourist season. Rider said, “One of the guys who founded the show was a restaurateur here in town. He looked at his sales receipts. Labor Day weekend he was really busy, and the next two or three weekends were slow until leaf season came around.”
The event was developed in between the gap of Labor Day and Leaf Season (the changing of colors) when leaf-lookers come to view the beauty of fall on the Mississippi.
Rider stated, though usually well attended, this year’s event is down from 140-150, to around 120 competitors. It’s been a tough year with the flooding and different issues with people driving to the venue. “The demographic of people who typically drive is older people in their 50’s and 60’s. As people get older, we have to recruit new people,” Rider said.
Rider noted that it’s a cooperative event. “The Carriage Classic is run by a different group. The Villa Louis Carriage Classic is different than the Historical Society. We work in partnership with them to provide the site and venue for people.”
The Villa Louis Carriage Classic Committee is made up of a group of people that have a passion for carriage driving, local people involved with community support, and volunteers.