Fresh look for Devon show The event includes an improved Dixon Oval and fresh paint and landscaping.

Posted: May 26, 2006

The 110th annual Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, a 10-day event that began yesterday, has a new and improved look this year.

That's thanks in large part to recently named president Wade L. McDevitt and his staff.

The biggest improvement on the Devon grounds, said McDevitt, is the innovative footing system in the Dixon Oval made up of "fine-grain limestone, Jersey sand, and other miscellaneous materials" that provide better cushioning and protection for the horses and that improve drainage.

McDevitt, 43, also mentioned renovations to the barns, new paint to the metal surfaces in the main grandstand, and better landscaping in and around the riding rings. Other long-range improvements are also planned for the grounds.

"Our mission is to make Devon bigger and better each year," said McDevitt, who was appointed president in February after volunteering for nearly a decade.

McDevitt followed in the footsteps of his father, the late Richard E. McDevitt, who served as president for 26 years. His grandfather, Harry S. McDevitt, had been on the board of officials.

The Devon Horse Show "was a huge part of my family's life," McDevitt said. "I became intrigued with it over the years and wanted to become involved in making it better."

Yesterday, under cloudy skies, spectators watched the junior riders compete. When there were breaks in the action, they strolled the boutiques, galleries and many other small shops lined up adjacent to the Dixon Oval.

Hot dogs and hamburgers were available from vendors, as was gourmet food in the cafeteria. To keep the youngsters busy, there is a carnival-like atmosphere with games of chance, a merry-go-round and a Ferris wheel.

Devon, one of the largest and most prestigious outdoor horse shows in the country, will continue through June 3. McDevitt anticipates 1,200 to 1,500 competitors. The money raised benefits Bryn Mawr Hospital. Last year, that total was about $375,000.

For Carolyn Curcio, a 16-year-old from West Islip, N.Y., it is her second year at Devon. She participated in the equitation jumping competition yesterday. Equitation is a riding event that judges correct riding and proper body carriage of horse and rider.

Curcio, who was riding a German horse named Landstriker 23, made the trip with her mother, Barbara. She said there is more to be gained at Devon than blue ribbons.

"You meet a lot of great people from all over the country," Carolyn Curcio said. "It's a one-of-a-kind learning experience. You learn so much from the other riders."

Said Barbara Curcio: "It's one of the top shows of the year for the kids. It's important for them to do well. Any ribbon won here is truly prized."

Max Amaya, a 32-year-old native of Argentina, yesterday was watching the teenage riders he trains at the Beacon Hills Show Stables in Colts Neck, N.J.

"I love it," he said. "I train about 30 kids at Beacon Hills. I get a lot of enjoyment out of it."

Amaya also is an international competitor. On Thursday, he will ride Church Road in the highly anticipated $75,000 Grand Prix, a jumping event that is scheduled to include 10 Olympians.

Contact suburban staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019 or robrien@phillynews.com.

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