Every once upon a time, life presents you with an adventure...something you've never done before which seems ridiculously daunting. That adventure for me was the two-and-a-half day drive to NAN and Breyerfest 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky, and then the return trip. We couldn't fly because my husband gets a bad reaction to the pressure change that gives him vertigo for weeks afterwards, so we were forced to drive.
Now the catch is I'm someone who has a hard time staying sane sitting in a car for long periods of time. I'm the type that has to do something, not just sit around doing absolutely nothing other than look out a window at passing cornfields. And there were a lot of cornfields. So as we piled into the rental car, ready to take off, I took a deep breath and steeled myself for what I expected to be miles upon miles of torture.
But much to my surprise. It wasn't. It was an adventure. Something I'd never done before, and in that spirit it was entertaining. Even more so since I was sharing it with hubby, who did all the driving (bless him). I've always flown to Kentucky for this annual event, so this was the first time I've been through these states and experienced the changing landscapes.
We had two long days and a third "short" day to arrive into Lexington Tuesday afternoon, to meet up with my Mom, who flew in to help me (along with hubby) with my Vintage Custom show I held in conjunction with NAN on Wednesday, July 20. The trip was (thankfully) uneventful and flowed nicely. The only hitch was about 15 minutes from our hotel the first night, we were stopped in Cheyenne, Wyoming by an officer for speeding because we didn't slow down quick enough in one of the bajillion construction zones. Much to our relief, he let us off with a warning, since we were just passing through and unfamiliar with all the construction going on. Thank you, officer! Otherwise our vacation would have started off on a bad note. And apparently he was a K9 unit, so hubby got to meet the dog, too. Nice doggie. Nice nice doggie.
We collapsed into bed and woke up the next morning to a wonderful complimentary breakfast at the Comfort Inn in Cheyenne. Everyone was so friendly and in good spirits...apparently this was the quiet before the storm because the following week, Frontier Days was to descend on the town bringing with it hordes of people.
We set out again, our next destination Davenport, Iowa to stay at the Comfort Inn there. We went through Peoria, Illinois the hometown of my pal Lynn Fraley, and it was a delightful place with a cool bridge (which we went over). We arrived in Davenport tired, but hungry, so we went to Culver's, for dinner, a place hubby insisted we go to because it started in Wisconsin (and he's from Wisconsin). So what the heck! It was tasty, and I especially liked the 'Turtle" frozen custard sundaes we got. But what was especially cool about our room there was that it had a jacuzzi! Yes! A jacuzzi! So we wallowed in that indulgence, our backs thankful for the luxurious relief. We slept like rocks that night...but not without some excitement: tomorrow was Lexington!
Enjoying a Wisconsin-native burger at Culver's with a Wisconsin-native boy.
The next day went without a hitch, and we arrived in fine order late in the afternoon. We met up with Mom and had a lovely dinner in the hotel, the Griffin Gate Marriott Hotel and Spa, then plopped into bed since we had to get up early. We were grateful to have arrived safe n' sound, and eager to start the whole NAN/Breyerfest escapade. And hooray for WAZE, the GPS program we used to get there. We love this phone app, and are nearly WAZE "royalty" based on our accumulated mileage. We had to plot it in blocks through, from stop to stop, since WAZE can't do over 1,000 miles. A small thing. It worked like a charm regardless.
Anyway, we left at 6:15am and found the Rupp Arena in downtown Lexington just fine, though finding the Heritage Hall inside was a challenge. The place is so big! This was where NAMHSA was holding NAN 2016 (it's national year-end show), and because my Vintage Custom show was being held in conjunction, we got to set up there, too. I was also judging at NAN this year, so it worked out perfectly. NAMHSA was so generous, giving us nine full-size tables at the back of the hall to hold the Vintage show! I got to split the classes, which was fortunate since so many models turned up to show.
It was a huge hit! Tons of models showed and people loved to oogle them and relive those good ol' days of yesteryear, enjoying past memories of all those times gone by. I had old publications available for people to leaf through, too, and Eleanor even brought an old photo album showcasing her old Customs. It was such a blast! NAN entrants and staff got to vote, and it wasn't so easy to pick winners, there were so many cool and beautiful pieces entered. It took some real thought!
Supreme Champion of A Classic Vintage II by Diane Capwell and owned by Lori Daniels
Now usually the classes are 60s-70s, 80s, and 90s, but so many showed up and so many tables were provided that I got to split them into 60-70s, 80-84, 85-89, 90-94, and 95-99, and each table was color coded for clarity. So everyone got twelve voting tickets. They got to use two tickets per class (or time period), using one ticket per horse in the class, or two tickets for one horse if they really loved it and wanted to weight it more. They stuck their tickets in a cup beside each entry. Then they withheld two tickets to vote for Supreme and Reserve in the same way at the end of the day. Voting criteria was anything they wanted to apply from "it's cool" to "it's more correct" to "it's kooky." It was all for fun.
Reserve Supreme Champion of A Classic Vintage II by myself and owned by Lori Daniels
And not only were the placings 1st-10th (First and Second got my resin medallions and 3rd-10th got my Vintage Show logo tiles), but there was a Supreme and Reserve Champion and Third Runner-Up (all the first and second placers competed for a OOAK hand-sculpted framed porcelain bas-relief for Supreme and Reserve and Third got fun ceramic boxes I made from my Dancing Horse tiles).
The competition was tough! So many splendid entries! And this was before all the entries were up!
On top of that though were the additional awards I brought for Jackie Arns-Rossi and Eleanor Harvey (the NAN hosts) to award. Jackie's went to Michelle Grant's Chinook's Colleen and Eleanor's award went to SO Viktor Alexi by Sue Rowe. I also gave Mom and hubby awards they could give to their favorites, and Mom picked a wonderful custom Breyer SM ASB and hubby picked (quite inadvertently) an old Vintage Custom of mine because he liked the paint job. It was a Stone trotting stockhorse I customized, owned by Lori Daniels. I also got to pick a favorite with my own special award, and I gave it to SO China Rose by Sue Rowe. I adore that mare! Supreme Champion was Bellhop, a gorgeous mule owned by Lori Daniels, and Reserve was the sooty dappled buckskin I painted, also owned by Lori Daniels. Third was a wonderful customized Classic Quarter Horse foal with a butterfly on his hinder.
Supreme Champion Honorable Mention by Chris Jolly
At the end of the show we held a raffle using all the coupons from the voting tickets, and handed out eleven fun raffle prizes. The whole thing was a hoot and people really loved voting and enjoying the oldies again. In fact, it was such a success that NAMHSA has invited us back to host it again with NAN next year! So stay tuned since it all depends on our schedules to see if we can pull it off again. I was so thrilled to be invited back! And that the show went without a hiccup, going exactly as planned, was a blessing. As Hannibal from the A-Team would say, cigar to mouth, "I love it when a plan comes together!"
Hubby Chris and my ol' Mom...my show minions! THANK YOU! I couldn't have pulled it off without you!
As for NAN itself, it was absolutely wonderful! Drama-free and stress-free, everyone was having a lovely time. The show was run so efficiently, it kept a good pace throughout the day and didn't drag on. And my word: the competition was fierce! I haven't seen a show with that depth of quality in a very long time. Picking the winners was tough and I had to get really nit-picky, especially on prepping and painting, in order to ferret out the placings. It was daunting to judge! What I found especially encouraging was that the issue of anatomy and biomechanics had improved greatly, with conformation, type, presentation, prepping, and painting coming more to the forefront as a result. There were so many I wanted to take home with me to be part of my own personal collection! Just fabulous! Really, a stellar NAN and it was my privilege to judge. Thank you tons and tons Eleanor Harvey and Jackie Arns-Rossi for this wonderful opportunity to contribute back!
Now just some insider points for future entries: be mindful of damage. There were a few entries that had minor damage like rubs and scratches in the paint that knocked pieces down. That was frustrating because otherwise they were incredible. I was also a stickler for prepping...there had to be zero visible relics of the molding process and I paid particular attention to mold seams, divots, depressions, gouges, and scratches. It had to be as invisible as possible. Also, since the issues of anatomy and biomechanics was so strong in the classes (yay!), I was able to look for conformation and breed type more. That was a welcome angle. And I didn't base decisions on archetype examples, though there were plenty of them and I do adore foundation types. I based them on what type within the breed they were supposed to represent so that variation within a breed could be acknowledged. And one more tip: artists...pay attention to the "uphill," "level," or "downhill" balance characteristic of a breed or type. This balance is measured from the base of the neck to the LS-Joint. This was a big determiner in the riding breed classes I judged, such as the AR Morgan class. For example, Morgans should have level and ideally uphill balance, meaning that the base of the neck should be level with or higher than the LS-Joint.
Now this was also the first year that NAN implemented the one-judge-per-class system. Usually it uses an average of three judges per class to make the placings, which has introduced a host of problems over the years that warranted this experiment. And I think it worked wonderfully. The NAN hosts picked experienced, expert judges for each class and let them apply their knowledge to the full depth of their ability, and the placings made sense (perhaps for the first time in NAN history). Judges were also fully accountable for their placings, which lent a much more professional tone to the show because placings weren't just a mishmash of partially-informed opinions by any warm body. It was real experts applying their knowledge in pure form. It was refreshing. It was appropriate. And it's the only way I'll ever judge any show, especially NAN.
So the day was a huge success and we went out to an early, light dinner with Mom in the hotel since she was leaving so early the next morning for home by plane. After we said our good nights and good byes to ol' Mom (Thanks tons, Mom!), we joined a bunch of NAN folks at Malone's to nibble and carouse. I also found out they served fresh raw oysters and how can I say "no" to that?! So I feasted on twelve of those suckers plus some sushi to celebrate a successful day. And there was much carousing! My oysters came with little blue lights under the ice, I guess to put a spotlight dance on those delicious little dollops of decadence. So...naturally...Eleanor stuck then up her nose! Ha ha ha ha ha! Then Lesli stuck them on her boobs! Silliness is a special quality only reserved for the funnest of friends, and we all got downright silly! There's only one thing that goes better with good food than more good food...and that's fun! So by that token, we had a perfect meal!
Random sign in the CHIN. HA HA HA HA HA! I suspect posted by an ever-patient hubby.
When we got back, we scheduled a couple's massage in the hotels' spa. I've never had a massage before, though Ham has, and I was intrigued. Initially, I decided that Ham deserved something luxurious after such a long drive, but he suggested we both do it together and I figured "why not?" Again, something new! So we made an appointment for the following day at 7pm, and we really looked forward to it.
The next day we met up with Kay Myers and Laurie Jo Jensen for some bourbon tasting. Ham had three things on his Kentucky Bucket List that he deserved after driving for so long, and those were The Three Bs: (1) A good local breakfast, (2) Bourbon, and (3) BBQ. Ham is a huge bourbon fan, and Kentucky is bourbon country. He's also a BBQ junkie, and he was drying to try authentic Kentucky BBQ. So we had our agenda. We were also directed to a brilliant local breakfast place (though we never made it, we where so booked for our mornings...next time!) So out we set to conquer the day! It was hot and humid (of course a freak heat wave had to descend on this particular weekend...104˚ and 95% humidity!), but beautiful nonetheless with all the lush greenness everywhere. Hooray for air conditioning! For the treks to our destinations, Kay had brought a couple of the compilation CDs Laurie had made for a previous Trollopfest (each fest has its own CD) and we rocked out to the likes of "White and Nerdy," "Dead Skunk," and "The Ballad of Irving" really really loud. Let mayhem commence! Don't feel too bad for hubby, though...he loved it!
Buffalo Trace was first on our list! They also sold a killer root beer, Dr. McGillicuddy's Old-Fashioned Root Beer. Delish! Now I don't care for bourbon, so I was all about the root beer!
So we ventured out to Buffalo Trace first, the maker of one of his favorite bourbons, Blanton's. It's one of the oldest distilleries in the U.S. and the tour was wonderful. It was like walking in actual antiques and the aroma about the place was magical. We had a lovely lunch there, too, in the cafe. But what amazed me was just how much was all done by hand, not automated. For example, all the labeling, waxing, and packaging for Blanton's wasn't done by robots or machines. All that work!
Assembly at Buffalo Trace for Blanton's Bourbon brand. All done by hand!
We next ventured to Woodford which was the complete opposite of Buffalo Trace. Everything was new, modern, and sleek. Yet it was "classic Kentucky" driving there with such beautiful countryside of rolling green hills, fences upon fences, lush trees, and horses horses horses. In fact, the surrounding neighborhood pastures were full of mares with their foals, and it was such a beautiful sight! Once there, we had a private tasting and more history on the distilling of bourbon, though we missed the tour. But eeesh! That first mash before it's been aged in barrels is like rocket fuel! Yow. But it was interesting...the bourbon tasting was paired with chocolate, which brought out new flavors in both.
After the fun, we dropped Kay and Laurie off at the CHIN (now the Clarion) and went to our massages. What an amazing experience! To be so pampered. To be so catered to. To be so indulgent. Quite the novelty! And the massage itself was heavenly! I'm addicted! I loosened up like a rag doll and almost fell asleep. And being able to share it with hubby made it all the more wonderful. In fact, we loved the experience so much, we booked another massage two days later, on Saturday morning. Then we scampered on over the CHIN to join the gang in the bar.
Kate and Laurie silliness in the CHIN bar. That's my Celebration sculpture Laurie is clutching.
The next morning (Friday morning) we had to run an errand that took us to Wheeler's Pharmacy. What a kooky wonderful little place! We didn't know it but apparently we'd chosen one of Lexington's iconic places! It had a little store in it besides the pharmacy...with Breyers!...and a cafe inside! People were there in the pharmacy eating lunch, chowing down burgers and milk shakes. How curious! Now while we waited, we started a conversation with the gentleman behind the counter and it eventually came out that I sculpt for Breyer, and that my sculpture was the 2016 Celebration Model at Breyerfest (all the locals know about Breyerfest it seems!). So he bought a model from the store and had me sign it. It was odd since I didn't sculpt the piece, but apparently he collected autographs and I qualified as someone famous. Life is weird.
Anyway, later in the day we joined Kay Myers and Laurie Jo Jensen again, but now with Kate Cabot in tow, for a day of local wine tasting. Since Stephani Robson wasn't with us, Kate served as our fill-in honorary Trollop, with hubby at the helm as official Cabana Boy (a post he fills splendidly). We first went to Equus Run Vineyards, and they had some rather welcoming wines. Their two Rosés were definite stand-outs. Kate even bought a bottle. Plus the gal leading us in the tasting was super friendly and knew about Breyerfest, too. She even wanted me to sign her Breyerfest pamphlet! Life gets weirder.
The gang out wine tasting. This was at Equus Run.
After that, we went to Prodigy Winery which was again the exact opposite of the previous place. The tasting room was large with tables and a large trinket and gift store full of kitchy items. The wine...to put it as politely as possible was...undrinkable. It was really heinous! But the point is the fun and not necessarily the wine itself...and on the fun front we scored big! Thanks ladies for a wonderful day! And thank you tons, Ham! Thank you for all that driving and putting up with us! Later that evening, we dropped off Kate and picked up Lesli Kathman and tootled off to dinner again at Malone's. Again, I had a dozen fresh oysters and lobster mac n' cheese. Delish!
I was scheduled to do model signings at the Artisan's Gallery that evening at 7pm. It went well, though it wasn't advertised so many people didn't know I was there doing signings, but I had a few nonetheless. It was so fun to meet new people and to know that they love the sculpture! One gal said she bought seven tickets just to get more! And thank you Lesli Kathman and hubby for running interference! And to Kay Myers and Laurie Jensen for the glass of wine! You guys are gems! But the hotel was packed with people waiting for the swap meet and the Artisan Gallery to open up...a sea of eager souls just waiting to score a treasure. It was quite a sight to see. So much electricity in the air!
I did my Birthday present to myself Bogucki style! I've wanted that Egyptian Arabian medallion of eons...mine mine mine! That's Edwin Bogucki's famous *Bask sculpture in the background there. My Lord it was gorgeous.
More goofiness in the Bogucki suite! Kathi has the patience of a saint! This picture about sums up what was so great about Breyerfest for me this year: people I love, great equine art, and a personal milestone achieved.
The next day...our last day... Saturday was already here. It came so fast! We went to our scheduled massages early in the morning, and it was just as wonderful as the first one. Then we rushed over to the Kentucky Horse Park to catch Lesli Kathman's seminar on the dos and don'ts of painting realistic equine sculptures. It was a wonderful talk (as usual) and we met up with Kay and Laurie again, and tromped off to pick up our Celebration models. Then while they and hubby went to the Hall of Champions, I stood in line and got my tent specials, which was fun...I'd never done that before. Another first. I think this year was also the first time one of my sculptures was a Celebration horse! Cool!
It was blazing hot and sweltering humid, so we decided to call it quits at the Park and get hubby the BBQ he was pining for. So we went to Blue Door Smokehouse based on the repeated recommendations from locals and online reviews. It's regarded as the best BBQ in Lexington, so it was time to strike off "BBQ" from Ham's Bucket List! And indeedy...it was delicious. And serendipity be...a little girl and her mom were there from Breyerfest, the little girl lovingly clutching her Celebration model I'd sculpted. After Laurie revealed I was the sculpting artist, the little girl wanted me to sign her piece, and I did. What a small world! Life just keeps getting more and more curious! What a special moment. After that we ventured over to the CHIN room sales and hubby got to experience them at full bore. Then we retired to the bar and proceeded to have a silly, ol' grand time joined by many wonderful folks. We plunked into bed, exhausted but happy, but eager to get home.
Now while the trip there was relatively smooth sailing, the trip home was anything but! Somehow we missed our turn-off in Kansas City and ended up in a completely different direction and freeway. So while we wanted to end our day in Lincoln, Nebraska, we had to push all the way to Laramie, Wyoming, a long 18 hour drive! I was so worried about how hubby would hold up, but he was such a trooper. But lemme tell ya...it wasn't just the distance that tested his resolve...just about everything else did too!
You see, about 4 miles out of Oakley, Kansas we ran out of gas! The meter said we had 14 more miles on the tank, but nooooooooo....we sputtered to a halt just outside of town. It was evening and getting dark too boot. A storm was coming in, too, looming black and scary on the horizon. Of course it is. Lovely. Anyway, we called the state troopers and one came out lickety split and got Hubby to a gas station, then brought him back. He was also nice enough to follow us to the gas station to make sure we didn't sputter out again. Thank you Kansas State Trooper! But was particularly cool about all this was that Ham got to ride in the car as it was lit like a Christmas tree with siren blasting and barreling down the road into town at 95 mph...then back again. I was jealous. I just got to sit and wait and watching the impending storm loom closer.
Out of gas and stranded in Kansas.
So we tooddled along on our way and ran up smack dab in the middle of that giant storm. My lord...lightening everywhere, black sky....it was pitch black around us...and the rain came down so thick our washers couldn't keep up even on high. People were pulling over to the side, or came down to a crawl. Hubby found the white line and just slowly followed it while the wind and rain battered our poor little rental car. I still can't believe how pitch black it was! About 20 minutes later we found our way out of it...thank goodness...and left the giant black sky behind us as we scuttled onward towards Laramie. Ham had clutched the steering wheel so tight, his hands were sore!
Then we ended up on a hilly mountain highway winding its way through the foothills shouldering Laramie. Ham was so haired out because he kept envisioning deer bounding out in front of us, so I acted as a second pair of eyes to look for that tell-tale eye shine. Then lo! We crested a hill and saw the welcoming lights of Laramie....at 1:25am! I thought we'd never get there! We pulled into the parking lot totally strung out and went promptly to bed. Although it took hubby about 45 minutes to unwind, and apparently all he saw was road when he closed is eyes, he finally fell asleep. What a day! All the bad juju happened on this one day...which was good....since the following day was a breeze. We took our time and got back to our humble abode after afternoon rush hour.
Wow...what an adventure! So much had happened in just one week! And, in fact, hubby said he had such a good time, he'd be happy to do it all over again! Can you believe it? That dear man...signing up for more of this mayhem. But everyone loves him, and he is my better half, so...of course!
I did score some goodies at Breyerfest! I bought some little things from Karen Grimm's collection dispersal...a particularly beautiful dark Classic Arab Stallion (I love that sculpture) and some adorable charmkin HRs. The bongo-playing mouse is definitely a favorite! I also scored a cool Chinese dragon bas-relief sculpted by Kitty Cantrell, from Caroline Boydston (who brought a plethora of gorgeous pieces to sell, including her fantastic new shark sculpture!). And I finally got the Egyptian Arab plaque from Kathi Bogucki I've wanted for so long. From the tent sales, I got a Mamacita and Chico, and a Furano, the lovely dapple grey glossy Arabian. And my mystery model is a lovely dark bay over Esprit. And, of course, I scored three of my Celebration horses, which turned out beautifully! Breyer really hit it out of the part with this one! A beautiful soft rosey grey with beautiful little dapples and a pearly sheen. Just gorgeous! It was also the first time I'd ever seen that sculpture in plastic, so it was a real treat to finally see a finished product! Now the original is much bigger! Nearly two inches bigger (or at least I think so) at the ear tips...so somehow they shrunk it down to the size they needed! PHEW. I was so worried about his size! But they made it work...yay! Speaking of size, I'm on the hunt for a Girl From Ipanema, a small-size crystal version of my Croi Damsha sculpture. (hint hint!)
Gorgeous flowers were everywhere!
So we've been recuperating, unpacking, doing laundry...all the unglamorous stuff following such a trek. I brought Rascal home from the rat-sitter the next day, and now it's truly home again. My widdle Waaascal! How I missed you! Lots of cuddle time to catch up on!
It was an amazing experience! Meeting people I'd only known as names online, reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, meeting new people and oogling all the beautiful work out there! And of course, the gorgeous horses that inspire all this madness were a marvel. I managed to fair the heat well...it didn't bother me as much as I expected it to, though I must admit the barrage of tasty margaritas did cool me down nicely Saturday evening!
Both NAN and Breyerfest are happenings, and it was a thrill to be a part of them this year! So many varied people coming together over the love of horses and model horses. Such a treat. I can't wait for next time, the next big adventure! See you there!
Like mighty eagle soaring light
O'er antelopes on Alpine height.
The anchor heaves, the ship swings free,
The sails swell full. To sea, to sea!
~ Thomas Lovell Beddoes