Now I wish I’d bought one of the posters. The artwork and layout didn’t jump at me, but the pictures and the very existence of the posters perfectly embodied the improbable event they commemorated.
The Colonial Carriage and Driving Society’s Pleasure Driving Show was not a spectator sport. Rather, it begged participation, and its participants defy easy classification. At first glance, its members were mostly female, often mature, or even older, but they came to this historic sport from countless directions.
Set against a carefully-crafted backdrop of bucolic splendor on a private farm in Stockbridge, MA, the competition consisted of well-dressed, drivers in phaetons and buggies driving their equally well-groomed horses or ponies through a series of obstacles. Drivers were judged only on speed and accuracy. The early 20th century clothing and bonnets are a tribute to the sport’s inspiration.
The first easy impression would be be that only the well-inherited could afford to participate in a competition like this and, to be sure, there are quite a few well-heeled entrants. However, there were plenty of spunky enthusiasts who had found their way in through horse rescue organizations, or through different types of crisis survival groups. There were salty grandma’s barking at their chargers, there were young girls fresh off their first introduction to “My Friend Flicka.” There was a horse therapist with a pony name Ohio. And all of them were as colorful than their ribbon- and flower-festooned bonnets.
At first I kept reminding myself that this quaint tableau was just an illusion, but the day’s organizers and competitors pulled our whole family into their world, sharing its history and introducing us to our own. And when we started on our way home, we took with us a renewed conviction that substance can still beget beauty.