Once a year, volunteers of the non-profit Equine Voices Rescue and Sanctuary invite the public to kick up their heels and join them for a rippin' good time at its "A Very Special Horse Event" fundraiser.
Previously held on Tucson's far Southeast side, the event moved in 2009 to Brandi Fenton Memorial Park on River Road. Event coordinator Carol Grubb said the new site is closer to town, includes more parking spaces, a covered hay barn for silent auction items and a wonderful park. Last year "we had a tremendous increase in attendance," with approximately 1,000 attendees, up from 650 the previous year.
While the cause is a serious and important one, the day's festival-like atmosphere has something for the whole family. Gulliver, Equine Voices' mascot, will be available for photos, and some of his rescued buddies will join together in demonstrating training techniques used in their rehabilitation.
Gulliver's onsite namesake store will sell unique clothing, art and jewelry, while the tack shop will have larger items for the barn such as saddles, halters, reins, boots and pads. This year, for the first time, a kids' area will be set up with items for sale under $20 and fun activities such as face painting.
A festival wouldn't be complete without food vendors, which will include Quesadillas and More, Zona 78, Keva Juice and Kettle Korn.
Among the many highlights is the opportunity to win great prizes through auctions and raffle drawings. "Last year there were over 400 auction items and we plan to equal or exceed that this year," Grubb claimed. The largest donation received is considered the raffle's grand prize, which Grubb said at this point looks to be a one-week condominium stay in San Carlos, Mexico.
Other items include restaurant certificates, resort stays, a 32-inch television donated by Tocco Financial Services and a sunset ride and barbeque dinner at Tanque Verde Ranch Resort. The live auction features "the most decadent desserts. It's a real crowd pleaser," noted Grubb, who's hoping to have Martha Vazquez of KVOA News serve as auctioneer.
Focusing on the educational goals of the event will be Equine Voices volunteers, with information on equestrian care and the horse adoption / sponsorship program at Jumpin' Jack Ranch in Green Valley. Detective Therese DesChene from the Pima County Sheriff Department's Animal Crimes division and Animal Cruelty Task Force co-chairman Mike Duffey will offer talks on how to recognize and report animal abuse.
Special celebrity guest Michael Blake, who wrote "Dances With Wolves," will be on hand to discuss his role in the fight to save wild horses on Bureau of Land Management property.
Karen Pomroy founded Equine Voices in 2004 with the goal of rescuing mares and their foals from Canadian Premarin farms and nursing them back to health. Premarin, an artificial estrogen used for treating symptoms of menopause, is produced from pregnant mares' urine. According to Pomroy, the horses are kept in too small facilities with water withheld to produce more concentrated urine. They are then sent to slaughterhouses and sold overseas for human consumption.
She is also working with U.S. agencies to take in abused, neglected and starving horses. Transportation and care of the animals until they can be adopted is a costly endeavor and underscores the importance of the March 6 fundraiser.
"It's an event to bring education about the plight of horses and to focus on them," Grubb stated. "But it's not just about horses – it's a family day. We want to teach the community about compassion and shed light on issues of violence and providing resources." Everyone is welcome.
Equine Voices Fundraiser Festival
Saturday, March 6
11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Brandi Fenton Memorial Park
3482 East River Road
Entry is $5 for adults, including one raffle ticket; children 16 and under are free
Silent auction will be open for bidding 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Raffle drawing 3-3:30 p.m.