Like last year the turnout was fantastic with almost 180 members, supporters and friends attending and as I looked around I thought about the difference from the first AVH Ball I attended which topped 70 people, what a difference then to now. I rather think that with the size of the room it would be impossible to get more people in? What a great problem to have!
Now they say that every great evening requires three components, good food good wine and good company, and as I arrived it was clear we had all, a free bar, people everywhere in animated conversations and when dinner came- good food. Everyone was asked to take their seats and just as they did the Band leader asked everyone to turn and make it to the dance floor and "Party like it was 1994" what a great way to kick off the evening and energize everyone.
Master Brendan gave a short welcome, and the band played a variety of classics and more recent numbers for the surprisingly large turnout of young people, which was wonderful to see. Then it was the turn of the Masters to thank Our Huntsman and whips for their hard work and for Master Stephen to announce and make a new award.
Stephen explained that Colors are awarded at the discretion of the Masters in recognition for good horsemanship, knowledge of the territory and being willing to help in all activities of the club. Now they felt it was time to recognize individuals who have held their colors for 10 years plus, who continue to be willing to help, who can be relied upon and who embody the spirit of AVH. This new award is named after a past member of the club Marc Torselleri, who tragically died of pancreatic cancer. Marc was always fun to be around with a hearty laugh and when not wearing a riding hat would have a berit on, Marc was always willing to jump in and help, it is fair to say Mark touched all of us, with his generous spirit.
Stephen was pleased to award Ralph Reilly as the first recipient of the Marc Torselleri Award and remembered when Ralph took him to his first Hunter Pace and picked him up to go to his first Hunt. He mentioned how Ralph had been dedicated to the club and was "always willing" to help. Much cheering ensued and it was clearly quite an emotional moment.
Ralph graciously accepted the award and I remembered one particular meet at Unionville Winery, Mark's condition was known to all, he had good and bad days but was determined to come out hunting, despite the vicious treatment he was having, and an impromptu Colors Ceremony was made by Master Ron, Ralph and Joanne. Mark was delighted and Ralph generously took off his red jacket and offered it to Mark to wear. I cant remember if he ever managed to wear it, but it was an just an extraordinary kind thing to do.
Then it was time for the whip cracking contest and 27 participants lined up to try their hand. Master Brendan's running commentary was priceless, especially the comments about "failing to perform the second time" and "you really need to sleep the night before, drink protein shakes as the whip cracking experts do" and other questionable advice. After first rounds, "never in the history of Amwell" and according to Steve F and Master Stephen the judges, there was a 5 Way Crackoff! Much to my surprise Charlie won- I didn't even know he could crack a whip?? (who knew?) He was awarded the fox head trophy (which will live in his room!)
The Horn Blowing contest, judged by Master Joanne, Grace Thompson and Steve F allowed the audience to hear a range of interesting sounds. The winner ended up being a guest Elizabeth Kitts, or Bit's as she is known. All I can say is Steve your job is very safe in this respect!.
So with more enthusiastic dancing over the next few hours, more wine imbued and the bidding on the silent auction completed, the raffle drawn (won by Hans and Ursula Stahl) flowers presented as a thank you to Wendy and Wendy, it was time to bring the evening to a close. So with a few hangovers, a few blisters from dancing and a few dollars shorter from the auction I can say it was a great evening. Heres to next year!