Augusta, ME --- A crowd of 250 horsemen and women attended the annual dinner and awards gala of the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association at the Calumet Club in Augusta on Saturday (Jan. 18).
In the afternoon and before the evening festivities, the annual meetings of the MHHA and the USTA District 9 were held.
Representative Don Marean, Eric Bickmore and Donna Dubois were re-elected for three-year terms to the MHHA Board of Directors. At the conclusion of the meeting, nominations were held for the officers on the board. All of the officers were re-elected for a one year term; Dr. Timothy Powers, President, Wallace Watson, Vice-President, Donna Dubois, Secretary and Scott Mackenzie, Treasurer.
|Shelley Gilpatrick photo|
|Governor Paul LePage spoke at the banquet.|
Governor Paul LePage greeted horsemen and guests during the social hour. Just before dinner was served, the Governor spoke to the crowd about preserving Maine's agricultural heritage which is comprised of farming, forestry and fishing.
Along with the Governor, several legislators attended the event. Among those in attendance included State Senators Roger Katz and Troy Jackson and State Representatives Russell Black, William Noon, Brian Jones and Donald Marean. The Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Walter Whitcomb and the Director of the Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, Ellis Additon, were also in attendance.
The Board of Directors awarded 17 scholarships totaling $9,000 to deserving students continuing on with their secondary education.
The highlight of the evening was acknowledging the top individuals and horses in Maine in 2013. Some of the individuals who were honored with top awards included MHHA Trainer of the Year, Bo Sowers; Driver of the Year, Drew Campbell; Rising Star Award, Andy Harrington; Groom of the Year, Steve Wilson; and Distinguished Service Award, Michael Timmons.
Last Spring, Timmons was appointed to the Maine State Harness Racing Commission. For the last several years, he has served as President of the Cumberland Fair and has been in charge of the racing program. Timmons has spent countless hours dedicated to raising money for his favorite charity, the Make A Wish Foundation of Maine.
The top horse awards of the evening included Outstanding Pacer, Haverford Hanover; Outstanding Trotter, Obrigado; Claimer of the Year, In Tony's Honor; and Outstanding Dash Winner with 18 wins, High Calibre N.
The most prestigious award of the evening was awarded to Real Special, the 2013 Horse of the Year. Real Special is owned by Kyle Gibbs of Brooks, Maine and trained by Steve Vafiades. Throughout the racing season, Real Special dominated the winners over class all over the state of Maine. He set a track record at the Cumberland Fair in 1:54.4 and had a seasonal best of 1:54.1 in the Hight Memorial at the Skowhegan Fair.