Viva Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas
By Becky Newell
|Yep, those are Quarter Horses behind all of those people, and yes, that's Fremont Street in Las Vegas in 1968. (Journal file photo)|
EDITOR’S NOTE: In early March, Vintage Las Vegas created a Facebook post using a photo of American Quarter Horses on Las Vegas’ Fremont Street during the 29th AQHA Convention in 1968. That sure got our attention, especially since the 2024 AQHA Convention will be in Las Vegas. AQHA has hosted the annual convention in Las Vegas six times (1968, 1977, 1992, 2012, 2016 and 2022).
We pulled out the photo file from the 1968 AQHA Convention to see if we had photos of the horses on Fremont Street. We also looked up coverage of that convention in the Quarter Horse Journal. They did, indeed, have a horse show during the AQHA Convention, and the finalists for each of six classes were brought out and the winners selected on Fremont Street.
Here are a few more pieces of trivia from the 1968 Convention: AQHA Executive Secretary Howard Linger, who was retiring, was recognized at the Convention. He was succeeded by Don Jones. Tom Finley of Gilbert, Arizona, was the outgoing president, and Ed Honnen of Denver was the incoming president. Kid Meyers earned the first AQHA Supreme Champion title in 1967 and was recognized at the 1968 convention. Mrs. Fisher E. Simmons, aka “Miss Polly,” of Avery Island, Louisiana, was the first female AQHA director that year.
|Oilman and rancher A. B. Green bred, raced and showed Kid Meyers, who became the first AQHA Supreme Champion in 1967. He was recognized at the 1968 AQHA Convention. (Journal file photo)|
Don Jones reported that AQHA ended 1967 with 40,271 members, which was up 1,970 over 1966. AQHA registered 63,785 foals in 1967 and transferred 76,698. The Journal had 41,537 paid subscribers at the end of 1967.
Below is a reprint of the convention horse-show story from the June 1968 Journal.
|The 1968 AQHA Convention was held in Las Vegas at the Stardust Casino. (Journal file photo)|
Las Vegas was widely acclaimed as the town that never sleeps, and the night of March 17 was no exception. Leave it to Quarter Horse people to stage something new in the dusk-to-dawn hours in this desert spa of fun lovers.
Getting the “red carpet” treatment is one thing, but to stage a horse show on an actual red carpet extending two blocks down the busiest street in town is something else. And that’s what happened when the Downtown Casino Center sponsored an extravaganza long to be remembered by the 7,000 persons who witnessed the gala affair.
The top six horses in each class, previously judged in the arena, were brought out on the red carpet for final judging.
Amid the whir of the roulette wheels, the click of slot machines and the familiar “eight by not the hard way” monotone of the dice croupiers, thousands of tourists and celebrities got their first look at fine Quarter Horses and real cowboys – among many of the 744 members of the American Quarter Horse Association at their 29th convention.
“Benny (Binion) is one of the people responsible for bring the American Quarter Horse Convention to Las Vegas with its headquarters at the Stardust Hotel. During the horse show, Benny has persuaded the downtown casinos to go along with carpet on Fremont Street from Main St. to Casino Center Blvd. as a site for the final judging,” according to an article in the Las Vegas Review Journal on February 15, 1968.
Under the glittering lights of the casinos, where fortunes were made and lost by ranchers and miners in the early days of the Old Wild West, the horses were exhibited in regal surroundings.
|Benny Binion, center, with sons Ted and Jack. (Journal file photo)|
Crowds jammed the sidewalks from the curbs to the casino entrances on both sides of the two-block area to get a glimpse of the unique animals. All Fremont Street bustled with activity.
Beautiful show girls, local residents, gamblers and tourists from widespread areas were among those who witnessed the spectacle.
The show began at midnight, and the Downtown Casino Center hosted the entire audience to free cocktails from 11 p.m. to 7 o’clock the following morning in every casino in the area.
It was a refreshing sight for old timers to again see the reason why Las Vegas is called “fabulous.” Visitors saw something they’ll be talking about for years to come.
In this fun-filled mecca of gaiety, once the habitat of the legendary “Nick the Greek,” the horse that helped win the West was appropriately honored.
Walking off the red carpet with Grand Champion Stallion honors was Skip Sir Bar, owned by H. J. Wiescamp, Alamosa, Colorado. Reserve Champion was Three Par, owned by Marten Clark, Soledad, California.
Distaff honors went to Skip’s Glory, also owned by auctioneer Wiescamp; Reserve Champion was Joy By Otoe, owned by Frank J. Mason, Springfield, Illinois.
Grand Champion Gelding was Frosty Bonanza, owned by Debbie and Mary Jo Brehm of Lincoln, Nebraska; and Reserve Champion was Pocono Del, owned by Lehman and B. Louise Sterling, Twin Falls, Idaho.
George Tyler judged the show.
The 2024 AQHA Convention is March 15-18 at the South Point Casino and Spa in Las Vegas.