At the May 1966 Ohio Quarter Horse Association board meeting, the late Blair Folck, owner of National Equine Sales and an OQHA past president, reported on his attendance at the Charolais Cattle Congress in St. Louis, Missouri. Folck raved about the success of the show, and stated that the enormity of the state-sponsored cattle event dwarfed any promotional events that the national association had ever done. He further predicted that the same type of program could be adapted to Quarter Horses and hosted by OQHA.
His idea was received with mixed emotions by the board. Many people were excited about the idea, but others were concerned about the financial liability. OQHA had only $3,500 in the treasury and in 1965 the directors had passed the hat to raise funds to buy the association a typewriter. An exploratory committee was established to review the feasibility of the project and the board spent nearly six months considering the pros and cons of hosting the Congress. After deliberating and reviewing its options, the board agreed at an emergency board meeting in January 1967 to host the Congress under one condition: $10,000 was to be raised before May 1, 1967 or the show would be cancelled.
Dr. W.P. "Pete" Drake, OQHA president for the first three Congress shows, and Folck began presenting the idea of the Congress to individuals and groups and worked on obtaining commercial exhibit agreements to attend the show. Numerous chairmen and committees began working in earnest. With much more than the $10,000 goal in signed contracts, the association decided to proceed with the first annual All American Quarter Horse Congress November 3-5, 1967 at the Ohio State Fairgrounds in Columbus, Ohio. Registration was $20 for three days, $15 for Saturday and Sunday and $5 for Sunday only.
"There would be no free rides," wrote Dr. Drake. "We had heard a report that the National Reining Horse Association had incurred a $4,000 debt in their effort to put on their first Futurity in 1966 and we surely did not want to duplicate their errors. We decreed that every trustee - working or not - must pay his own admission to attend. Everyone must also pay their own expenses, i.e., hotel, transportation, etc."
More than 5,000 horsemen and women came to the first Congress and the event was a hit, netting the association $15,000 over its three-day run.
More than 40 years old now, the Congress is still a hit and its success has led to many additional services and events for the Ohio Quarter Horse Association. After Congress paperwork outgrew three rooms in Dr. Drake's Richwood, Ohio home, office space in the Union County village was rented and eventually an executive secretary was hired to manage the show.
Now, the Congress is known as the world’s largest single-breed horse show, boasting more than 17,000 entries annually and housing nearly 6,000 registered American Quarter Horses during its three-week duration.
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