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‘Ruby Roundup’ kicks off the Autumn Classic

— There are local horse enthusiasts and supporters of the uniquely Albany Autumn Classic Horse Show who are lamenting the annual event’s move to Perry this year after a 35-year stay at Potter’s Community Center in the extreme southwest corner of Dougherty County.

But, bottom line, the Classic just got too big for the venerable local venue.

“Potter’s has space for around 60 horses, and last year we had more than 250 at the Classic,” Dougherty County Saddle Club Vice President Kilena Underwood said. “And the way early registration is going so far for this year’s Classic, we’re expecting between 300 and 400 horses.

“Old habits die hard, but the truth is we’d really outgrown Potter’s.”

One old habit that has not died with the move is the annual kickoff party that gets local horse lovers thinking about the Classic and raises a whole lot of money for the Albany Humane Society. That party, titled the “Ruby Roundup” this year, will be held Saturday at Doublegate Country Club.

In addition to an exquisite surf-and-turf dinner, ticketholders will take part in a reverse raffle that will land some lucky attendee $10,000. The Roundup will also feature a silent auction and an opportunity to buy a raffle ticket on ruby and diamond jewelry.

“The (kickoff party) has become a traditional part of the Autumn Classic,” said Carol Rathel, a current Saddle Club board member and one of the original members of the club when it was founded 35 years ago. “Some of our members don’t really want to move the Classic from Potter’s Community Center, but there are just not enough stalls and camper hook-ups there.

“Perry offers a very nice facility, and it is large enough that we’ll be able to hold all the events in one day rather than two.”

But before the Nov. 12 Autumn Classic, there’s the Ruby Roundup, which kicks off Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

“We’re always looking for a good excuse to have a party,” Underwood quipped. “But every year it’s turned into an opportunity to see how much more money we can raise for the Humane Society. Our goal this year is to raise $16,000 for improvements that have been earmarked at the shelter.”

The kickoff party raised more than $10,000 last year. Funds generated from the Autumn Classic will be donated mostly to the Georgia Equine Rescue League and the local Humane Society.

Ruby Roundup tickets are $100, which includes dinner for two and an entry in the reverse raffle. Individual dinner-only tickets are $35. Tickets may be purchased online at autumnclassic.us.

Entertainment will be provided by local musical artist Jodi Mann.

“The secret to the success of the Dougherty County Saddle Club is that it’s a generational organization,” Underwood said. “You have grandparents who taught their grandchildren to ride; parents who ride with their children. It’s a family thing.

“We consider Potter’s Community Center our home, but we’ve just outgrown the facilities. The beautiful thing about (holding the Classic in) Perry is that it’s not too far out of the way for our members. Change is inevitable, but the fact that we had to make this (venue) change speaks well of the growth of the horse industry in our region, despite the bad economy.”