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70 years of memories

CR Horsemen’s Club celebrates the past
Jim Miller (vice president), Toby Schutt (planning committee member), Marilyn Butler (planning committee member), Linda Johnson (planning committee member) and Mary Jo Meggers (president) gather for a group portrait before the Cedar Rapids Horsemen’s Club’ 70th anniversary banquet Sunday, Oct. 12, at the club’s facility in Western. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

WESTERN– “It’s been a fun ride and we’ve really enjoyed it.”
An appropriate sentiment from equestrian Marilyn Butler, member of the board of directors for the Cedar Rapids Horsemen’s Club, and the driving force behind the club’s recent anniversary celebration. The club celebrated its founding in 1944, and the years since with “70 Years of Memories” at a Sunday Night Supper Oct. 12 at the club house on Club Road in Western.
Butler and her husband Burton joined in 1964. “We’ve always had an interest in horses,” she said. “My husband was a horse judge and the club asked him to judge a show for them in trade for a membership, and we’ve been here ever since.”
Verne Upmeier, Mary Barta (and by proxy, her husband George, who was overseas at the time) and Robert and Shirley Weiditz founded the club and were the charter members. Initially, members gathered at Upmeier’s stable between Solon and Ely. Then, with some money in the treasury, the club was able to purchase the Buresh implement dealership in Western. Members converted the business into a clubhouse with stables and meeting space.
Jim Miller of Ely joined the club shortly after its inception.
“I am the oldest member here,” he said, “I think by age and being a member.” Miller started working with the club sometime before 1950 and finally joined up in 1951. “I was putting on trail rides and getting horse trails put together, and finally somebody said, ‘why don’t you just join if you’re going to do all the work for ‘em?’”
In addition to holding horse shows and going on trail rides, the club also performed community service in the form of rides for people with cerebral palsy.
“We’d give the people a ride on hayracks and horses. Then the county (Linn) comes in and puts a ditch in so we can’t do anything for the special needs people,” said Miller.
When Club Road was resurfaced, the parking area in front of the clubhouse, and along Club Road was torn out with a drainage ditch put in its place. The result was the club losing parking spaces, including its handicapped accessible parking. The club’s woes with the county didn’t end there, however. Recently the club improved parking on the south side along Club Lane using donated gravel and labor. “Now they’re trying to take that away from us too,” Miller said, as the county wants to carve another ditch, further limiting the club’s parking.
Parking issues aside, Miller said the club’s members still have fun with weekly meetings, shows and trail rides.
Family fun has been a hallmark of the Cedar Rapids Horsemen’s Club. “Our son Brad was very active in showing horses,” Butler said, and now he has a stable and gives riding lessons near Ankeny. “It’s a good activity for kids.” The family participation has declined from younger people, who are busy with so many other athletic sporting events. “Families are busier nowadays, and that’s just the way it is,” Butler added.
But for those who do sustain their interest in riding and showing horses, it can be rewarding. Butler’s son Brad was active in both 4-H and Boy Scouts, and earned his Eagle Scout designation by doing horse-related activities.
Dave Jones of Cedar Rapids also remembered the family aspects of the club. “We were members for 30 or 35 years and we came over here every Sunday night, and it was quite a thing.” He called the Sunday Suppers a great gathering. “We brought the whole family, the kids and everything, we just had a great time.”
The club currently has about 100 members, and is always looking for more.
“It’s a really family-oriented program,” said current club president Mary Jo Meggers. “We’re really wanting youngsters who are interested in horses (to join).”
And interest really is the thing; owning a horse is not a requirement.
Last Sunday, social hour preceded the meal cooked by former president Frank Zaspal, with a short program looking back over the club’s history and honoring secretary Barbara Lee, who died in September. A packed house gathered for the event with the atmosphere of a reunion.
“These are long-time members that are glad to be back to see each other,” Butler said. “There’s a lot of hugs and a lot of greetings, and they’re just happy to see each other.”
“It’s just a big, happy family of people who enjoy horses as a common denominator,” said Jones.
The club is located at 11818 Club Road, just north of Shueyville. Individual and family memberships are available. See the club’s website at www.crhorsemansclub.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/pages/Cedar-Rapids-Horsemens-Club for more information.