Over 1000 people, some from out of state and even the country of Albania, attended the grand opening of the Riley Equine Center on Sunday. Center owner Bonnie Riley said the day far exceeded their expectations.
"We had an absolutely phenomenal day," Riley said.
The Boonslick Shrine Club, Cooper Masonic Lodge #36, Ancient Landmark Lodge #346, Richard and Jake Nelson, Gary Barron, C & R Market, and the Apello Grottos furnished free food for the event.
"This was a joint effort by these kind folks and Riley Equine Center to give this gift to our community," Riley said. "We had over 50 volunteers who worked very hard to show everyone a good time, and it seemed our efforts were successful. The Shrine Clowns attended in full costume and made balloon animals and had their pictures taken with the kids."
Local resident Jeannie Anguaoui expressed her gratitude toward the center and the Equine Therapy it offers.
“Our community really came together in support of the grand opening, Equine Therapy and the new indoor riding Arena! We had a wonderful time! I actually had friends from Illinois drive to Boonville to attend the grand opening," Anguaoui said. “Cowboy Dave Grayson, Bonnie Riley and the army of volunteers make awesome things happen through Equine Therapy.”
Riley said eleven vendors displayed their wares and gave many an opportunity for some shopping along with eating, painting real horses, riding horses, playing games and vying for raffle items. Tanner Bechtel provided music throughout the event.
"Bechtel had many toes tapping, and several expressed being tempted to break out a dance floor," Riley said.
Riley said the center gathered enough donations for six full scholarships to award to riders who can benefit from therapeutic riding.
"People were very generous. However, we had about 15 people who expressed interest in having their children be considered for those scholarships, so we need to continue to work for the kids," she said.
Construction was still proceeding up until the day of the event.
"Constructions workers Richard and Jake Nelson worked into the night several nights to get the new arena finished for introduction to the community. We received many compliments on it," she said.
Riley was very elated about the experience everyone had throughout the afternoon.
"This was truly a mountaintop experience for all of us. Even though the volunteers were pretty tired by 5 p.m., there was not a happier bunch to be found anywhere. All were talking about how this child or that one touched their hearts. This arena was built to serve this wonderful community, and we are all so honored and humbled that the community received us with such enthusiasm. I use the term “community” broadly because we had guests from all surrounding counties, including states like Kansas, Illinois and Iowa. Our guests who came from the greatest distance were from the country of Albania," Riley said.