Keystone Cluster 2021 | The Birthplace of the Great Secretariat hosts a Weekend to Remember

Keystone Cluster 2021 | It has been well over a decade since the Penn Ridge Kennel Club joined the Harrisburg Kennel Club on their August weekend to form the Keystone Cluster in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. For most of those years, the cluster was led by Sally Kamm and her team of members from the Harrisburg club, while the Penn Ridge shows were chaired by Charlie Olvis and Liz Muthard with assistance from the Penn Ridge members. The membership of both clubs worked together diligently to get the cluster off to a great start.

In the second year of the newly formed cluster, the Penn Ridge Kennel Club was asked to hold an evening event to benefit “Take the Lead.” That first charity fund raiser was a huge success, and the members of the PRKC elected to form a charitable foundation to have the ability to raise funds for donations to various canine-related causes.

Keystone Cluster 2021

Keystone Cluster 2021

Keystone Cluster 2021

Keystone Cluster 2021

Under the leadership of Charlie and Liz, the Penn Ridge Kennel Club Charitable Foundation has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to various canine-related organizations, including Take the Lead, The AKC George Ward Scholarship Fund, the Harrisburg Kennel Club K-9 Foundation and other local K-9 Units in police work, The Canine Health Foundation, and other charities.

The main fundraisers for the foundation have been the numerous “themed” Casino nights, held after Best in Show on the Saturday night of the weekend. Some of the past themes have been the Roaring 20’s, The Old West, The wonderful World of Disney, Pirates of the Caribbean, and several others. The themes bring out the best in costume design from various exhibitors. Thanks to various donations by generous members of the dog community, the “Gala” has always had a fantastic drawing with phenomenal cash and other prizes. There is always superb food, and an actual recreated casino to gamble at with Slots, Black Jack, Craps, and Roulette. This year, they even had horse racing to bet on using “play money,” with the winnings traded in for additional raffle tickets for the drawings at the end of the evening. Of course, there is always music, and I have had the pleasure to volunteer as the DJ for each of these events through the years.

As everyone knows, COVID hit us in 2020. The PRKC and HKC shows, like many others, were canceled. However, The Penn Ridge Kennel Club Charitable Foundation still managed to help with a raffle last year to benefit Take the Lead along with another raffle to raise funds for the Scholarship Fund.

This year, because of the ongoing COVID restrictions in Pennsylvania at the time the contracts needed to be signed, Penn Ridge decided to investigate finding an alternate site in hopes of being able to hold their shows.

The AKC granted permission for the Penn Ridge Kennel Club to hold their 2021 shows at the site of several dog show weekends this year: Meadow Event Park, located in Doswell, Virginia. The Greater Philadelphia Dog Fanciers Association and the Huntingdon Valley Kennel Club, two clubs that were also unable to hold shows in Pennsylvania on their normal dates, decided to join the cluster. It was the first time these clubs shared a cluster. The chairpersons from all three clubs (John Constantine-Amodei, Lloyd Constantine-Amodei, Sue Ratz, Charlie Olvis, and Liz Muthard) worked tirelessly to put it all together and to see that everything ran smoothly during the shows.

If you are a Thoroughbred horse racing fan, this year’s “Casino Night” was a very special one to attend. The party was held at the breathtakingly wonderful Meadow Hall, a recreation of the former estate home of the late Penny Chenery, well-known to Thoroughbred horse racing fans as the breeder of the world-famous and record-setting Triple Crown winner, “Secretariat.” Meadow Hall is adorned with paintings and photos of many famous horses, and of course, plenty of special photos from the career of Secretariat. There is also a portrait of Penny Chenery, and a tour of the artwork on the home’s walls is a lesson in horse racing history.

The Meadow was founded in 1805 by Dr. Charles S. Morris, an ancestor of Christopher Chenery. The original house was built in 1812, and The Meadow stayed in the Morris family for nearly 100 years. Mr. Chenery (Penny’s Father) purchased the farm in 1936 during The Great Depression.

Keystone Cluster 2021

Thanks to various donations by generous members of the dog community, the “Gala” has always had a fantastic drawing with phenomenal cash and other prizes. There is always superb food, and an actual recreated casino to gamble at with Slots, Black Jack, Craps, and Roulette.

Following his acquisition of the property, Mr. Chenery restored and expanded the original home and went on to establish and build Meadow Stables. He built the original barns and established the Thoroughbred bloodlines that would produce many outstanding racehorses and broodmares. It is here that on March 30, 1970 the legendary Secretariat was born.

A couple years before the birth of the legendary horse, Mr. Chenery fell ill and had to be hospitalized. His daughter, Penny, was forced into the management of The Meadow. Sadly, Mr. Chenery passed in January of 1973 and did not see the incomparable Triple Crown Run of Secretariat.

If you know anything about estate taxes, it would not surprise you to know that after Mr. Chenery’s estate was settled in 1979, there was not enough money left for Penny to keep The Meadow. As a result, she had to sell her beloved farm. Over the next several decades, the house and grounds changed hands numerous times. In 2003, the State of Virginia purchased The Meadow and relocated the State Fair there in 2009.

Today, the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation owns The Meadow. It is now known as The Meadow Event Park where many majestic elm trees are said to be over 200 years old, and where the original boxwoods planted by Penny Chenery’s mother on the south lawn are still there. The Meadow Hall mansion plays host to weddings, parties (just like the casino night), corporate meetings, and special tours of Secretariats’ birthplace. The Meadow Hall is an absolutely beautiful facility, filled with plenty of memorabilia.

Keystone Cluster 2021

The party was held at the breathtakingly wonderful Meadow Hall, a recreation of the former estate home of the late Penny Chenery, well-known to Thoroughbred horse racing fans as the breeder of the world-famous and record-setting Triple Crown winner, “Secretariat.”

Behind the mansion stand three of the remaining barns built by Mr. Chenery in 1936: The Stallion Barn, Yearling Barn, and Annex Barn. They, along with Secretariat’s foaling shed and training barn in the horse show complex, are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.

The theme for Keystone Cluster 2021 was going to feature the 1980s through the film “Back to the Future.” However, with relocating to The Meadow Event Park, the theme became “Racing Back to the Future” in honor of Secretariat and the other great horses from Meadow Farm Stables. During the show and at the party, Darryl Vice was in full character as Christopher Lloyd’s film character,
Dr. Brown.

As previously mentioned, along with gambling, we always have music to go with the theme. I served as the event’s DJ and was joined this year by a very special guest singer & songwriter, Mr. Michael D’Amore. Michael is a 2020 East Coast Music Hall of Fame nominee as a male vocalist as well as a featured performer. Michael currently performs nationally as a one-man show, covering everything from Frankie Valli and Andrea Bocelli to Whitney Houston and Patsy Cline as well as all the best of the 1960s through the 1980s. Michael is also the current lead singer of the Capris and is honored to be able to perform their hits “There’s A Moon Out Tonight” and “Morse Code of Love” to music lovers all over the country.

Keystone Cluster 2021

The intimate atmosphere in Meadow Hall was fantastic. Between Michael’s singing and the DJ playing many of the hits of the 1980s (along with other oldies) the dance floor was active. Many in attendance danced the night away. The numerous gambling tables stayed full and I even saw Jessy Sutton teaching his daughter how to play “Black Jack.” (At least it will help her
math skills!)

As usual, Keystone Cluster 2021 was a great success thanks to all the effort and attention to detail in the year-long plans by Charlie and Liz.

Of course, there were also five days of shows that were enjoyed by the exhibitors. Carol and I had entered the shows because we were going to DJ the event, but fate had a change of plans. Several judges had to cancel their assignments due to illness and other issues, so we (along with a few others) were brought in to cover their assignments. If you have ever been a show chair, you know how difficult this can be, but again, Charlie and Liz handled it well. When making arrangments with the site, the clubs were informed that COVID protocols would be in effect and could change at any time. When I think of all the work it took for these clubs to pull together just to provide the shows in a location that is a significant distance from their traditional homes, it showcases the hard work and dedication of these clubs to our sport. Their efforts are greatly appreciated.

The 2021 edition of the Keystone Cluster is “in the books” and they were terrific shows. The facility was well-lit and air-conditioned, comfortable with decent-sized rings, and the casino night charity fundraiser was an overwhelming success. Thanks to all who made it happen, including the generous sponsors, everyone who bought event or raffle tickets and participated, those who exhibited at the shows, and all the judges and stewards, club members, and volunteers for keeping things running smoothly. Also, “Thank You” to the show chairs, John Constantine-Amodei, Lloyd Constantine-Amodei, Sue Ratz, Charlie Olvis, and Liz Muthard, for organizing and putting it all together under such
difficult circumstances.

Keystone Cluster 2021 | The Birthplace of the Great Secretariat hosts a Weekend to Remember

Photos by Jean Edwards

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  • Walter Sommerfelt of Lenoir City, TN has been involved in the sport of purebred dogs since acquiring his first Old English Sheepdog in 1972. He is a former professional handler as well as a breeder, and exhibitor of breeds in all seven groups, most notably Vizslas, OES, Pointers, Bearded Collies and Weimaraners. Judging since 1985 he is approved for All Sporting, Working, and Herding breeds and groups, Junior Showmanship and Best in Show and has had the honor of judging on four different continents. Mr. Sommerfelt has judged many of the most prestigious shows in the United States including the herding group at the 2014 Westminster Dog Show in New York City where he has judged on three separate occasions. Mr. Sommerfelt was the founder and chairman for the St. Jude Showcase of Dogs from 1993 until 2009, a unique event showcasing the world of purebred dogs. This special event was the largest collection of various dog events in one location, featuring an AKC all Breed Dog Show, AKC Obedience and Rally Trials, AKC Agility trials, (prior to AKC adding agility NADAC trials ) One of the largest Fly ball tournaments in the U.S.A., Herding and go to ground demonstrations, A main stage featuring performances by Canines from Television and the Movies, Freestyle, Demos by drug and various therapy dogs, A full room of booths for meet the breeds, over 50 AKC judges seminars annually, Lure coursing, A fun Zone for Children, and other dog related fun activities for the general public and their dogs. Over the years the event not only raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the world-renowned St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, but also raised awareness of the many activities for people with their dogs as well establishing a voice for dog people in the Memphis area with regard to legislation. Many aspects of today’s AKC Royal Canin show can be traced back to the St. Jude event. Along with Carol his wife of 36 years they have bred well over 90 AKC Champions including Group, Best in Show and Specialty Winners, dual Champions and multiple performance titled dogs. During the past 40 years Mr. Sommerfelt has been active in a number of dog clubs and is currently the President of the Tennessee Valley Kennel Club. He is recipient of the AKC outstanding Sportsmanship Award and is also a career agent and financial planning specialist with Nationwide Insurance. The Sommerfelts’ have two grown children, both former Junior Handlers and they are still active breeders and exhibitors of the Vizsla breed.

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