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Harnessing Horse Power : 2-Day Competition Benefits Huntington Beach Art Center

August 13, 1996|KATHRYN BOLD

It's not strawberries at Wimbledon or mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby. But in just seven years, croissants at the Summer Classic equestrian competition in Huntington Beach have become part of a fine old tradition.

The highlight of the weekend-long GTE the Everything Pages Summer Classic VII took place Sunday, when riders competed in the high jump while more than 650 guests enjoyed the show and a gourmet luncheon from ringside tables in Huntington Beach Central Park.

Working with the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center and the city, the Huntington Beach Art Center Foundation staged the classic to benefit the art center. Guests paid $75 to $125 to attend the high-jump luncheon, which was expected to net about $100,000 for exhibitions, classes and children's programs. Total proceeds from the Summer Classic were expected to reach $500,000.

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A Tradition Is Born

In its brief history, the classic has gone from a somewhat obscure affair that attracted mainly the movers and shakers of Huntington Beach to a highlight of the summer social calendar for Orange County.

"It takes a few years to create a tradition," noted Michael Mudd, event co-chairman.

A few years ago, event organizers decided to move the competition from the equestrian center to central park so that guests no longer had to trample through dust. The new locale offers a wide swath of lawn and trees.

"This looks as good as Atlanta's [Olympic equestrian competition], and we don't have 100-degree temperatures," observed Diana Casey, event co-chairwoman.

Women guests wore flowing summer dresses with straw hats, and men wore khakis and blazers.

"Just look how elegant everyone looks," Casey said. "This is an event that people come to see and be seen [at]."

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An Eye on Elegance

Over the years, gala committee members have fine-tuned all of the details of the gourmet luncheons on the both days of competition. Tables were draped in white and hunter green cloths--to match the surroundings--and set with silverware.

This was no casual picnic. The gourmet fare by Maxwell's Catering included pastas, Caesar salad, grilled salmon and an ice cream bar.

"We're trying to make it as elegant as we can," Casey said.

While dining, guests watched riders coax their horses over hurdles, cheering when high-jump winner Michelle Parker brought her horse, Nicholson, over a 6-foot-9 fence.

"There's a lot more interest in equestrian events because of the Olympic games," Mudd said. Faces in the crowd included actress Cybill Shepherd, who skipped the luncheon but was seen sporting a riding outfit and watching her daughter in the children's competition; actress Veronica Hamel; Don Jankowiak; Mary Harris; Gerald Chapman; and Elaine Hankin, chairwoman of the Allied Arts Board. Also attending were David Casey, Mary Ellen Houseal, Dorothy Johnson, Darlene Evans, Bob Goodrich and Phil Mosbo.

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