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updated: 10/12/2012 3:16 PM

Danada festival showcases equestrian center

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The Kentucky Derby is months away and everybody's buzzing about pumpkins and Oktoberfest and football.

What's a horse lover to do?

Check out the Danada Fall Festival, of course.

Don't be fooled by the name -- the Danada Fall Festival is a hoofed-filled celebration at the Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton. Festivities run 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14.

The festival offers explanations of horse care and grooming, hayrides and demonstrations by local riders and groups, including the Danada volunteer musical horseback drill team and Friends for Therapeutic Equine Activities, a Winfield-based nonprofit organization that provides equine-related activities for people with special needs.

"It's a day in the country, and we've got some beautiful animals to show," said Trish Spiroff, the educational site manager.

The festival is the largest special event for the DuPage County Forest Preserve District, drawing crowds topping 12,000 people to the equestrian center, once a sprawling racehorse training estate and the home of 1965 Kentucky Derby winner Lucky Debonair.

"They are certainly interested in learning that kind of notoriety," Spiroff said of visitors to the storied Kentucky-style barn.

Art aficionados can check out the Friends of Danada Nature Art and Photo Show, where more than a dozen local artists will present photography, oils, watercolors and other works in a juried show at the Danada House, the former home of Dan and Ada Rice.

Kids, meanwhile, can decorate paper hobby horses for a romp in the main arena, paint pumpkins, face-paint or climb a stately oak tree.

"It seems like so many little kids will go through that phase where they're all about horses, whether it's little girls who want to have a pony or little boys who want to be a cowboy," said Bonnie Olszewski, a public affairs specialist for the forest preserve district.

But the star of the day is about 40 horses -- from Arabians to Mustangs -- showcasing riding styles and stunts like equestrian vaulting, an eye-popping combination of gymnastics and riding, at the main arena from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

"They're great equalizers," Spiroff said. "They're very gentle souls, and people can commune with them and enjoy them just by looking at them in the pasture."

Admission to the festival is free, but there are fees for some activities such as face painting and hayrides. For details, call (630) 668-6012 or visit www.danada.info. The equestrian center sits at 3S507 Naperville Road, Wheaton.

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