A Trip Around the Congress Trade Show: A Brief Walk Through Congress Hall
It is rare to find a horse person that doesn’t want to collect more “horse stuff”, be it bits, bridles, boots, hats, medications, grooming supplies, saddle pads in a rainbow of colors, socks, shirts, tack cleaners… because you never know when you may need it! And there is plenty of that, and much more, to find at the Quarter Horse Congress.
It’s hard to visit Congress and not take a walk through the hundreds of vendors that grace the fair grounds in Ohio. I took my first real walk-through of just the vendors in Congress Hall on Friday the 11th. It will probably take me several more trips through before I feel like I’ve thoroughly looked at everything those vendors have to offer, and that is just in the one building! There are vendors scattered all over the grounds, and a whole other building to explore.
My first stop was in Berry Fit Show Clothing where I stopped to chat with Polly, a designer for the company. She took some time to show me around their booth, which was awash with bling and gorgeous show clothes. “We’ve got this new line here called Vaquero. They are chaps and chinks for the Ranch Pleasure riders!” They came out with the line last year, but are really kicking it up at Congress with great designs that have just enough pizzazz to show off in the pen, but not sparkle like a western pleasure outfit. Different leathers and studs created textures, and patterns such as roses or pistols can give it the individual rider’s personality.
“We’re trying to branch out with Berry Fit- Western, Berry Fit “In The Irons”, the saddle seat, the ranch pleasure. It’s been really fun to do!” says Polly. “We’re hoping to really diversify.”
Some more wandering around brought me through Blue Ribbon Saddles, Wenger tack, a necessary stroll through Rod’s Western Wear (I’ll be back to buy jeans with their great deals!), and a few other odds and ends. My eye was drawn to a long glass case that was exploding with sparkle. Gold Creations has all custom made, hand-crafted belt buckles that were out of this world. They ranged from merely blingy to ka-pow style flair, such as the October Breast Cancer Awareness buckle that was featured. Pink is a common theme around the Ohio Expo Center, with people supporting October as Breast Cancer Awareness month.
I kept on my path, weaving through the booths around the increasingly growing crowd. It was still a bit slow compared to the onslaught of the weekends and coming weeks, so I enjoyed not having to fight my way through the crowd. Another favorite stop of mine is the Harris Leather and Silverworks booth, where it is always crowded. Silver and shine and saddles that I would give anything for. I stopped in the back of the booth to chat with Eddie Harris, who does the intricate silverwork for Harris. “I always enjoy coming here, and we really hope it’s going to be a great show,” commented Eddie. A self-taught craftsman, Eddie has been working with engraving silver since ’84. “Things have already been picking up here just in the past day or so.”
“We don’t have any huge new things this year,” explains Eddie. “No huge new trends.” But shoppers always enjoy seeing everything Harris has to offer, including the rotating saddle rack out front that just draws you in to the booth. Harris is known for their great custom work, such as names on saddles, bridles, spurs, you name it. The most recent story is that of the “Harris engagment saddle”, that one smart fiancé proposed to his girlfriend with. But we will see plenty of Harris on horses here at the Congress in the next two weeks, as the pleasure classes start tomorrow.
I continued my trip around the Hall, pausing to look in at Trudy’s Black Label show clothing. Large stones on the shirts drew me in, which have a great, different look on the western show shirts. They were interspersed with rhinestones, medium stones, and other embellishments. A personal favorite of mine was the black shiney stones on black shirt. Wonderful look, without the overkill of crystals. “We drove all through the night from Tennessee to get here,” says Trudy, who was finishing up last minute set up with her assistant. “But we love it! Got in about 6:00 this morning.” It was her assistant’s first year at Congress, who said “it’s huge! I’ll be happy to just sit here in this booth so I don’t get lost,” she laughed.
I stopped by another popular “western” store, taking a moment to talk to the wonderful ladies of Good Ride. New this year, and featured at the Congress, are thin leather vests that are embroidered with the Good Ride logo on the back, designed to go over a fitted button down shirt. “All That Show Clothing is doing the vests for us,” explained a very helpful Good Ride employee. “I love how thin the leather is, because you can really move in them!”
Good Ride featured more of the neon colors that Hannah had talked to us about at the Tom Powers earlier this summer. “We’re doing the two-tone stitching on the embroideries,” she explained, “so that the riders have more colors to play with for their saddle pads. The men seem to love the neon and different colors!” Bright colors aren’t just for the ladies anymore, and wild patterns and colors bring to mind more “psychadelic” times. “It’s a great look, that gives you a stand-out appearance without overdoing it.”
By then, I realized it was 3:00pm and I hadn’t eaten lunch. So I took a shopping break to go check out the midway for some great “fair food”, maybe a little trip to the Sweet Shop. But I still have some shopping to do, including replacing a pair of boots that I can’t stand in a pudde without my sock getting wet… Good thing I still have 2 more full weeks to look!
Be sure to take a look at booth #620, Alliance Saddles with Lyn Palm. Alliance Saddles are specially designed to fit the stock horse breeds, and are the favorite saddle of professional quarter horse trainers and exhibitors everywhere. There, you will find a big screen featuring Show Horse Today magazine! See who you will be joining when you put your ad in our November/December combined issue.
See more photos from around the trade show here:
Happy shopping, and good luck to exhibitors!