Colossal Classic |

Colossal Classic

Photo for The Union John Hart
John Hart | The Union

Nearly 150 colossal steeds can been seen and their thundering hooves heard at the Nevada County Fairgrounds where they will high-step, prance or pull carriages in teams at the 26th annual Draft Horse Classic today and Sunday.

“This is a huge draft horse show. It’s the biggest show in the west,” said Randall Gross, who helps run Grass Valley’s Purpose Ranch, a nonprofit horse rescue organization.

The Draft Horse Classic beckons more than 20,000 attendees to watch nearly 100 exhibitors and their large-breed horses compete for more than $30,000 in prizes, said Wendy Oaks, the fairgrounds’ publicist.

“It’s about showing what the horses are capable of and what the drivers can do,” Gross said.

The horses are judged on trotting, grooming, turning, carriage pulling and training, alone and in teams of up to six.

“I’m in awe of them every year they are out here. They just take up the barns they are so big,” Oaks said of the Clydesdales, Belgians and Percherons, large-breed horses with hips standing higher than a man’s head.

“They are so beautiful,” she said.

The Draft Horse Classic draws horses and their trainers from as far away as Idaho and as near as Grass Valley.

“The crowd is premiere,” said Tony Hawkes of Hawkes Ranch in Elko, Nev.

“That’s what keeps us coming back,” Hawkes said. “The horses know it, too. Their ears perk up when they start showing,”

Six main performances anchor the Draft Horse Classic over the course of four days.

There’s never a dull moment between competitions, said Bonnie Reed, who has announced 24 out of the 26 Draft Horse Classics.

And the fairgrounds surrounding the draft horses are bustling throughout the weekend.

On Sunday, professional and amateur grillers will meet in a barbecue cook-off.

Six top chefs will also prepare dishes using smoked sausage and be judged by a panel.

The Harvest Fair features live music, food, art, live horseshoeing and other festivities.

“If you live in the area and you haven’t been here, you don’t really live here,” Reed said.

Visitors are also invited to tour the stalls and see the staggering stature of the huge horses up close.

“We want people to experience what it’s like to be around the horse, not experience them from afar,” Gross said.

The Draft Horse Classic continues through Sunday.

Tickets range from $13 for children to $24 for adults and are available at the fairgrounds entrance booths.

For information, visit

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call (530) 477-4236.

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