by Kathy King
Photos by Reuss Griffiths
The big day has come and gone, pictures are circulating and I am happy to report we officially had 70 degrees and sunshine for our September 14 ride in downtown Cleveland. This ride was held in support of the 102 year old Cleveland Mounted Police (CMP) Unit. As we know, the city pays the officers, but the horses are maintained on donations. The eight horses are used for sporting events, crowd control, patrolling, public relations, collaborative work with the Cleveland Metroparks Mounted Unit at the newly acquired Lakefront Parks, and funerals to honor fallen officers. No doubt they are there to serve and protect. On the 14th of September, 2013 they served and protected 180+ horseback riders, three wagons full of riders, and six carriages drawn by miniature horses during a 90 minute ride.
Much work went into this planning this event to be sure all bases were covered for a safe ride. Numerous calls had come in and I personally spoke with close to 100 persons offering up information from our past two rides. The first ride was under the supervision of Srgt. Donald Struthers in 2004 and hosted 70 plus riders. Srgt. Mark Medwid oversaw the parade of 2012 when the Cuyahoga County Farm Bureau hosted a ride for 79 persons with the help of a handful of horse enthusiasts. The dream and goal was to grow this ride bigger—200 horses on the streets of Cleveland—we can do this. And we did!
Anita Cook Director of Cuyahoga County Farm Bureau was already on site at 7:30 a.m. when my husband and I pulled in with two horses and a load of items that needed to be dispersed. We set up for refreshments, registration, and information. Trailers started flowing into the parking lot at 7:45 a.m. Linda Catlin from Montgomery County OHC was the person to travel the farthest and was the first to arrive. All of a sudden it was 9:15 a.m. and Al King and Tom Heinz had parked 80 or so trailers in the Cleveland Muni lot. During this time the other end of the lot was a flurry of activity as Del Stanbeck was getting ready to register riders. Christine from Geauga OHC helped with the refreshment table (compliments of Cuyahoga OHC). Jen Scolaro who has done several fundraisers in her time set up the sales and raffle area, and also helped get the coffee made for the event. I must say, I said my prayers the night before and had requested more volunteers. On paper we were light in the ‘help’ department if we got slammed with lots of guests. After returning from directing the camera man for Channel 3, low and behold there were over a dozen CMP supporters/volunteers that wanted something to do and quickly got to work directing traffic, moving tables, and helping with whatever needed to be done. Many of them were family members of the officers that rode with us that day—we thank them all for joining us.
Cut back to the camera man from Channel 3 who was looking to complete an interview as we waited for Robin Swoboda’s arrival. Anita Cook was roped into completing the interview as Robin came riding my favorite CMP horse Mandy. Riding with her were Srgt. Mark Medwid on Sonny, Officer Scott Sieger on Jack, Officer Abe Cortez on Paco and Officer Wilmer Gandarilla on Star. Also with them were guests Beverly Bell who rode Jakar, the Tennesee Walker she donated to the unit. Janet Forrio rode in honor of her late father Jack Haynes, Badge #605, who was a Cleveland officer. Twenty five of his 30 years were spent as a Cleveland Mounted Officer.
Melissa Clar was there riding 25 year old Buck. Buck was retired nine years ago as a CMP mount. Karen Roberts from Clip-ity Clop had made her way downtown as well riding on her National Showhorse Legend. Srgt. Don Struthers even sent well wishes for a good ride from Arizona.
Riders were in line at 8:30 ready to pick up their program and blue shirt that commemorated the 2013 ride. The group gathered at 9:45 a.m. for a prayer and to prepare for the ride. A thank you to our sponsors the Horsemen’s Corral, Mary Vedda—Keller Williams Realty, Cuyahoga County Farm Bureau, Robin Swoboda— Channel 3 Anchor, and the Friends of the Cleveland Mounted Police Unit. A thank you to our guest and supporters, especially YesterYear Horse and Carriages, Big Sky Clydsdales, Cherry Lane Shires and Cleveland Downtown Alliance. A $3,000 donation was made to the Unit on behalf of Ann Marie Ziska who was a detective for Cleveland for 20 plus years and who lost her battle with cancer in 2009. She had always wanted to be a Mounted Officer and the trustees thought this was a logical choice for the remainder of the scholarship money. A $1,000 donation was received form the Cavs. After the solemn moment laughter and smiles were everywhere— almost like it was contagious and being spewed through the air. From my seat upon my paint Louie I had watched the officers faces as the riders just kept coming and they were surrounded by 200 horses— all to be traveling down the streets of Cleveland. The look on the faces said it all. Wow! After all the number 200 does not look like much on paper, 200 people is nothing for crowd control. But add to the mix 200 1,000 pound animals and it can render you speechless. Safety for the bunch was the main concern with fun being a goal as well. We were lead out of the lot by CMP Hostler Karen Hatszegi and her husband Al. Falling in behind were the sponsors and volunteer coordinators, special guest riders, OHC members and Farm Bureau members. The officers instead of leading the parade were flanking the sides of what appeared to be one third of a mile long parade of horses. The parade was so long you could not see half way to the end. It is a good thing Reuss Griffiths was on hand to take pictures so we could relive and see what had transpired on the streets that day.
Our route was the shoreway to E. 9th—possibly heading over to the Gund arena to pick up the $1,000 check they so graciously gave again this year. But no one was to be there on this Saturday morning which actually worked out well since E. 9th had been under construction and was in the midst of being repaved. Talk about orange barrels and raised manhole covers being everywhere. Srgt. Medwid, along with Lisa Kreiger from the Downtown Cleveland Alliance had completed a dry run and determined the best route for our ride. Lisa is familiar with downtown and really wanted to show off the new Convention Center/Medical Mart. So when we hit Lakeside we ventured west viewing the lake, The Rock Hall, the FREE stamp, the court house, the new Convention Center and the Browns Stadium. How cool is that? From there we headed south on West 6th Street. This little one way street had coffee shops where people stopped sipping their drinks and waved. From there we ventured to the W. Prospect entrance of the HorseShoe Casino. Traveling this way allowed for all of the riders a chance to stop and partake in healthy snacks (carrots and apples) provided to us by the Chefs. Rich Bradshaw did not run into the casino this year but was spotted under the marguee getting photos done. On the return trip we heard him yell out to the corner vendor (a dog with mustard) and watched as he happily munched his street fare.
Much credit must be given to the Jolly Ranchers, a Farm Bureau Youth group who under the supervision and assistance of advisor Jan Stack, Anita Cook and Tom Heinz were on ‘doody’ call. They were diligent, and needed to be, as there was a wedding planned for Sunday and the street in front of the Court House needed to be pristine. The group was actually called back to do a second sweep.
Back at the lot we had food trucks on site which included: Pig Licking Good, Slangwiches, Philly Cheese Steak and Sweet, the Mobile Cupcakery. We also were entertained by the band ‘The Two of Us’, who did a great job entertaining us with renditions of the Beatles and Janis Joplin.
Raffle items had been secured from Harry Buffalo, Clip-ity Clop, Schneiders Saddlery, Brecksville Stables, Jen Scolaro and Sherwin Williams.
Traffic Commissioner Jim Muhiz joined us on site to take in the sights. Srgt. Medwid mentioned to him that maybe with this many we should look to have the ride elsewhere like the Cleveland Metroparks. Absolutely not was the response. So after the ride meeting there was the question of “can we handle 300? Do we want to?”…Oh boy, here we go again. I think we need to think about this on the peaceful trails of Brecksville Reservation…and so the planning begins.
For those who could not make the ride, donations can still be sent to Friends of the Cleveland Mounted Unit, 1150 East 38th Street, Cleveland, Ohio 44114. For those who would love a CD with the coverage for the day, contact Reuss Griffith at Reuss5@yohoo.com. For all of you who came out to support the unit and worked behind the scenes, our sincere thanks to you. We hope to see you on the streets of Cleveland in September 2014.