NEDA 2018 Fall Festival Marked the End of One Era and Start of Another

Tuesday, October 16, 2018
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Beth Jenkins

Beth Jenkins ©Carole MacDonald

Saugerties, N.Y. – A nearly 30-year run of managing the New England Dressage Association’s Fall Festival ended when this year’s Fall Festival came to a close. Long-time show manager Beth Jenkins has passed the management torch to new manager Sue McKeown.

The 2018 Fall Festival, held September 20-23 at HITS-on-the-Hudson, was the last to be held under Jenkins’ leadership, although she’ll continue to be active in helping with overall show management at NEDA. Jenkins had been managing the Fall Festival since 1989 and over the decades of management, she helped the show weather hurricanes, the tragedy of 9/11 and the move of the show from Halifax, Mass. to its current location at the HITS-on-the-Hudson show grounds.

The most difficult show in her tenure, Jenkins said, was the one that followed the terrorist attacks on New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. The show was to start two days later. “It was one of my worst memories,” she said. Her decision to go on with the show even brought death threats. “But the USDF and the FEI supported the decision,” Jenkins said. “I felt it was more important that we go on and not let terrorism deter us.”

When asked about her greatest challenge in the near-30 years of managing the Fall Festival, Jenkins quickly replied, “Hurricane Floyd,” which pummeled the New England coast with heavy rains and winds at the time when the show was still in Halifax.

“On the Tuesday before the show, I was thinking that if I just drove my car into a tree, I wouldn’t have to deal with the show and all the challenges coming from that hurricane,” she recalled. But Jenkins survived that crisis and many more in the years that followed. However, she is quick to credit her show success to an amazing support team. “I’ve added it up. It takes about 160 people to make the whole show work. We get them and they are great.”

During the Saturday evening banquet at this year’s Fall Festival, Jenkins was presented with an arena sign announcing that henceforth, the grand prix ring at the Fall Festival will be named the Beth Jenkins Grand Prix arena. In announcing Jenkin’s retirement as show manager, NEDA President Phyllis LeBlanc said she had now faced her worst fear. “My worst fear when I became NEDA president was, ‘What if Beth were not the show manager?’ Well, my worst fear has been met but she has put a wonderful transition in place. Sue will be taking over.”

McKeown, who has a long background in show management, including serving as secretary for NEDA’s spring show, said she had always been told that to appear to be successful, it’s easier if you follow someone who has been a problem. If that’s true, she joked that she’ll be in trouble because she’s following someone who has been tremendously successful in managing the Fall Festival. “But I am looking forward to it,” she said of taking over the reins from Jenkins.

Sue McKeown

NEDA welcomes Sue McKeown

Jenkins will continue to work with NEDA in supporting the overall management of NEDA competitions, but said the change in Fall Festival management “gives me a way to start backing out of some of the work. We have built a really good team and Sue will do great.”

This year’s Fall Festival took place in the midst of one of the wettest falls the Northeast has experienced but even the weather cooperated. Rains right before the show gave way to dry weather and then returned after the show. Nearly 600 horses were on hand for the event, which hosts not only a dressage show, but also a breed show, CDI and the USDF Region 8 championships. Numbers were down in the breed show and also the CDI portion of the competition, which came on the heels of the World Equestrian Games in North Carolina. However, the regional championships, as in previous years, was filled to capacity.

Complete show results are available at results.horseshowoffice.com.