A “Celebration” within a major celebration “Best” describes the Thursday evening, March 16, program during EquiFest of Kansas in Salina.
At the Saline County Livestock Expo Center and Tony’s Pizza Events Center (TPEC), March 16-19, EquiFest features everything horses.
“Expanded to four days this year, EquiFest will be extraordinarily special,” promised Justine Staten, Kansas Horse Council (KHC) executive director.
Serving the Kansas equine industry with leadership direction through education, promotion, and advocacy, KHC sponsors EquiFest as its main fundraiser.
“We predict ‘Celebration’ to be the most unique first-of-its-kind compilation of entertainment for horse enthusiasts,” Staten declared.
It’ll be a collaboration of Staten and Jennifer Gatrel, Cowgill, Missouri, beginning in TPEC Arena at 6 o’clock.
Program features liberty horsemanship Patrick Sullivan, Pegasus Riders, singer Gary Pratt, cowboy-actor Caleb Martin, singer-songwriter Savanna Chestnut, American Freedom Riders, Mustang champion Angeline Saliceti, and Western dressage Cyndi Harris.
“We are excited that Geff and Dawn Dawson will serve as announcers, play-by-play so to speak, for the program,” Staten said. “They are well-known throughout the Midwest for cowboy music, poetry, and storytelling to provide colorful commentary during the ‘Celebrate’ presentations.”
Gatrel has been obsessed with creating equestrian productions since childhood. She grew up and became a leader of Rodeo Kids, a large horse youth group performing acts around the country.
“Her favorite time of the year was the ‘Home Show’ where the horseback kids performed a full-length show,” Staten noted. “Jennifer worked at the legendary Dixie Stampede and loved the magic of entertaining and telling a story with horses.”
Later, Gatrel had a trick riding troupe offering custom event openings and riding, even had three years organizing ostrich racing.
Patrick Sullivan’s Modern-Day Horsemanship facilitates the connection between horse and human beyond the competition arena, Gatrel said.
“Old school horsemanship is combined with leadership techniques of today building solid foundation for every horse discipline,” according to Gatrel.
“Through a deeper connection between horse and human, Modern Horsemanship is encouraging the trust that enables healing, growth, and leadership.” Sullivan will also conduct several additional demonstrations during EquiFest.
“The Pegasus Riders are composed of two 12-year-old equestrian performers and their seven equine partners,” Gatrel said. “They specialize in trick riding, roman riding, dance, and equestrian liberty.”
Staten acknowledged, “These multi-talented kids have performed alongside the nation’s leading equestrian performers offering dynamic acts stunning audiences around the world.”
The Pegasus Riders will also present several additional colorful, action-filled personalized programs during EquiFest.
Gary Pratt is a National Cowboy & Western Heritage Wrangler Award winning cowboy and western singer, Gatrel pointed out.
“He is a songwriter, historian, storyteller, and accomplished guitarist who draws upon his military and ranching experience.” she said. Pratt’s diverse background is said to offer authentically classic performances for audiences of all ages.
“Caleb Martin is known for his natural acting talent, likable personality, and outstanding work ethic.” Gatrel said. “This has quickly earned him a great reputation among many professionals in the film industry.”
Martin has ridden horses since a young age, is an experienced professional horseman, and a winning rodeo team roper. “Recently, Caleb used his horse riding, musical vocals, and stunt skills in a prequel to the television show Yellowstone,” Staten noted.
Savanna Chestnut is a country music singer from Americus, who was a Team Blake contestant on The Voice television show. “She grew up singing in a family-owned bar and became a professional nostalgic country singer after high school,” Gatrel said.
“A Flint Hills native, Savanna’s voice is as clear and country as the prairie sky she grew up under,” Staten said. “Her singing and songwriting reflect her heartfelt, no-frills character.”
With a number of recordings along with songwriting awards, Savanna Chestnut will sing with backup from The Farm Hands Band.
Seven young cowgirls form The American Freedom Riders Drill Team from North Central Kansas. “They host fundraisers throughout the year representing the men and women who have fought for our great country,” Gatrel said.
“These cowgirls love riding and supporting our country,” Staten noted. “It’s their way of giving back to the families who lost a loved one and those fortunate to return home.”
The drill team will also be performing opening ceremonies for the EquiFest Ranch Rodeo performances Friday and Saturday evenings, March 17-18.
From Topeka, Angeline Saliceti and her Mustang Samson are both 16-years-old. “They have collected numerous state, region, national, and world titles in the most diverse performance competitions,” Gatrel pointed out.
Samson is from Wyoming’s Green Mountain Herd Management Area and was adopted from the Hutchinson Correctional Facility in 2012. “Both horse and owner then just six-years-old have accomplished so much as a unique team featured in worldwide media,” Staten said.
Specializing in Western dressage and working equitation, Cyndi Harris and her husband operate Antelope Creek, a horse facility at Udall. They board horses and Cyndi trains and gives lessons to students who have a wide variety of interests.
“Cyndi was born with a passion for horses. and has had an eclectic equine experience,” Staten said. “She has always used the elements of dressage in her training feeling that dressage is the foundation for every discipline.”
“About 50-percent of the ‘Celebration’ music will be sung live at the event,” Gatrel promised. “There will be fog, theatrical lighting, beautiful costuming, and talented equine and human performers.”
Staten acknowledged, “Jennifer Gatrel loves collaboration with talented horse people, and storytelling using the shared love of the horses. She believes a great show makes the audience feel a wide range of emotions from fear, love, joy, and even sadness.”
“We are so excited about the EquiFest ‘Celebration’ as a special new spectator attraction nobody wants to miss,” Staten invited.
“This extraordinary display of equestrian and musical talents showcases various arts and skills. A drill team, trick riding, Roman riding, liberty, Western dressage, and freestyle set to music, live and recorded,” Gatrel promised. “It’s a night of theatrical magic performances by talented equestrians and musicians a presentation only happening Thursday evening, March 16, at 6 o’clock.”
Actually, there will be even an advance EquiFest program with a breakaway roping clinic all-day Wednesday, March 15, at 8 o’clock, Staten pointed out.
More about the “Celebration” and complete EquiFest of Kansas schedule with details can be found at www.equifestofks.com.
Top left to right, Patrick Sullivan, Pegasus Riders, Gary Pratt, Caleb Martin, Savanna Chestnut, American Freedom Riders, Angeline Saliceti, and Cyndi Harris will present ‘Celebrate’ opening night at the EquiFest of Kansas in Salina, March 16-19. Bottom right, Dawn and Geff Dawson will serve as announcers, play-by-play color-commentary, for the theatrical magic performances by talented equestrians and musicians.