History of the Congress

 At the May 1966 Ohio Quarter Horse Association board meeting, the late Blair Folck, owner of National Equine Sales  and an OQHA past president, reported on his attendance at the Charolais Cattle Congress in St. Louis, Missouri. Folck  raved about the success of the show, and stated that the enormity of the state-sponsored cattle event dwarfed any  promotional events that the national association had ever done. He further predicted that the same type of program  could be adapted to Quarter Horses and hosted by OQHA.

 His idea was received with mixed emotions by the board. Many people were excited about the idea, but others were  concerned about the financial liability. OQHA had only $3,500 in the treasury and in 1965 the directors had passed the hat to raise funds to buy the association a typewriter. An exploratory committee was established to review the feasibility of the project and the board spent nearly six months considering the pros and cons of hosting the Congress. After deliberating and reviewing its options, the board agreed at an emergency board meeting in January 1967 to host the Congress under one condition: $10,000 was to be raised before May 1, 1967 or the show would be cancelled. Dr. W.P. "Pete" Drake, OQHA president for the first three Congress shows, and Folck began presenting the idea of the Congress to individuals and groups and worked on obtaining commercial exhibit agreements to attend the show. Numerous chairmen and committees began working in earnest. With much more than the $10,000 goal in signed contracts, the association decided to proceed with the first annual All American Quarter Horse Congress November 3-5, 1967 at the Ohio State Fairgrounds in Columbus, Ohio. Registration was $20 for three days, $15 for Saturday and Sunday and $5 for Sunday only.

"There would be no free rides," wrote Dr. Drake. "We had heard a report that the National Reining Horse Association had incurred a $4,000 debt in their effort to put on their first Futurity in 1966 and we surely did not want to duplicate their errors. We decreed that every trustee - working or not - must pay his own admission to attend. Everyone must also pay their own expenses, i.e., hotel, transportation, etc."

More than 5,000 horsemen and women came to the first Congress and the event was a hit, netting the association $15,000 over its three-day run.

More than 50 years old, the Congress is still a hit and its success has led to many additional services and events for the Ohio Quarter Horse Association. After Congress paperwork outgrew three rooms in Dr. Drake's Richwood, Ohio home, office space in the Union County village was rented and eventually an executive secretary was hired to manage the show. In 2017, OQHA moved to its current office space in Columbus, just miles away from the Ohio Expo Center.

Now, the Congress is known as the world’s largest single-breed horse show, boasting more than 26,000 entries annually and housing nearly 6,000 registered American Quarter Horses during its four-week duration.


Hall of Fame

The All American Quarter Horse Congress is the world’s largest single-breed horse show. People travel from not only all across the country, but from around the world to compete at this event. Without the dedication and hard work of a few individuals, the masses would not be here. Established in 1987, the Congress Hall of Fame recognizes those individuals who dedicated their lives to helping the Congress become the success it is today. Originally, four people were inducted, but inductions do not necessarily occur every year. The OQHA’s Hall Of Fame Committee reviews potential candidates for inclusion into the hall of fame every year. 

Paul Brown (inducted in 1987)

The late Paul Brown of Newark, Ohio served as the president of OQHA in 1972 and 1973. Brown created and developed the Congress National Youth Activity Team Tournament in 1968 and served as its first chairperson for many years. Brown worked diligently to promote the tournament among AQHA affiliates. Brown also coordinated Congress awards ceremonies for several years. 

W.P. “Pete” Drake (inducted in 1987)

The late Dr. W.P. “Pete” Drake of Tucson, Ariz. (formerly of Richwood, Ohio) served as OQHA president during the first three years of the Congress, 1967-69. Dr. Drake tirelessly promoted the Congress in its early years, even keeping paperwork at his house (which filled three entire rooms before he rented office space). Later, Dr. Drake became the unofficial historian of the All American Quarter Horse Congress. 

 Blair Folck (inducted in 1987)

The late Blair Folck of Springfield, Ohio served as OQHA president in 1963 and 1964, as well as 1970 and 1971. Folck developed the concept of the All American Quarter Horse Congress and worked with Dr. Drake during the show’s early years to promote it. He also owned National Equine Sales, the company that managed the Congress Super Sale from the first year in 1967 through 2008. 

Earl Lambert (inducted in 1987)

Rounding out the first four inductees, the late Earl Lambert of Columbus, Ohio served as one of Ohio’s first show secretaries. He managed the popular Midwest Livestock Show and Rodeo in the 1950’s and 1960’s and was then recruited to become the Congress show secretary in its early years because of his horse show management expertise. 

Bailey “Stretch” Bradley (inducted in 1988)

The late Bailey “Stretch” Bradley of Plain City, Ohio served as an OQHA director, and many people still remember his tall frame sitting on the tractor dragging the Coliseum dirt between classes. Bradley also showed his champion Halter horses at Congress to numerous awards. 

 Dale Wilkinson (inducted in 1989)

The late Dale Wilkinson of Waynesboro, Ga. (formerly of Findlay, Ohio) is also a member of the NRHA, NCHA and AQHA Hall of Fame. When the Congress began in 1967, Wilkinson created the concept for the Reining division and managed the Congress Reining events during the show’s early years. 

 Keith Bradley (inducted in 1996)

The late Keith Bradley of Bowling Green, Ohio has been known as the “Voice of the Congress” since his smooth voice first graced the public address system in 1967. Through 2008, Bradley announced countless Congress Champions, record scores and other events, including serving as the Master of Ceremonies.

 Paul Wilt (inducted in 1996)

The late Paul Wilt of Sidney, Ohio served as OQHA president in 1995 and 1996 and held the longest term to date as a Congress Tri-Chairman, 12 years. Throughout his years of involvement, Wilt provided a steady foundation and wise advice to all. 

 Lee Sobas (inducted in 2001) 

The late Lee Sobas of Marysville, Ohio is the first woman inducted into the Congress Hall of Fame. She worked for the Ohio Quarter Horse Association for 27 years before retiring in 2002. Sobas served as horse show secretary and futurity secretary and she was a familiar face and a friendly voice to many horse show exhibitors in the Congress entry office. 

Alan Potts (inducted in 2002)

Alan Potts of Coshocton, Ohio served as president of OQHA in 1960 and remained active with OQHA by serving on every standing committee within the association. Potts has been involved with the Congress since it began.

Beverly Grose (inducted in 2006)

Inducted posthumously, Beverly Grose of Richwood, Ohio was an employee of the Ohio Quarter Horse Association for nearly 30 years. Grose served as the OQHA membership and points secretary and worked behind the scenes at Congress with OQHA’s computer system. She was known for her caring attitude, warm smile, hard work ethic and wealth of knowledge. 

Clark Bradley (inducted in 2008)

The late Clark Bradley of Findlay, Ohio comes from a family dedicated to OQHA. His father, Bailey, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988. Clark has served as president of OQHA from 1999-2000, as well as the director representative for Reining and Roping for more than 25 years. Additionally, Clark has shown at every single Congress since it began in 1967.

Shirley DeLorean (inducted in 2008)

The late Shirley DeLorean, of Medina, Ohio, was in charge of the Congress Queen Contest for more than 25 years. She also served as president of the Ohio Quarter Horse Association from 2001 to 2002, as well as several other offices throughout the years. DeLorean was described as being a true-blue friend, someone who always made everyone feel welcome. 

Skip Salome (inducted in 2008)

Skip Salome of Newark, Ohio has been part of the All American Quarter Horse Congress since its inception in 1967. He has served on every Ohio Quarter Horse Association committee, including president from 1993-1994, 2005-2006 and 2009-2010. Salome’s children, Todd and Kelli, are also involved in OQHA as directors. 

 Denny Hales (inducted in 2009)

The late Denny Hales, from Zanesville, Ohio, was inducted posthumously to the Congress Hall of Fame. He served as the Congress show secretary, beginning in 1985 and continued his service to OQHA as the executive vice president for more than 20 years. Hales’ considerable contributions to OQHA and the Congress are forever remembered with the dedication of Denny Hales Arena on the Ohio Expo Center grounds, during the 2009 Congress. 

Joseph “Jess” Cecil (inducted in 2012)

Jess Cecil, from Akron, Ohio was inducted posthumously to the Congress Hall of Fame. He was elected to the OQHA Board of Directors in 1981 & served on nearly every committee. Throughout his 30 years of service on the board, Jess was very involved with futurities, and the Congress Souvenir Program. Jess Cecil would have liked to be remembered for his work ethic, raising his children - which he always said was his greatest accomplishment, and promoting the Quarter Horse. 

Donald Clason (inducted in 2014)

Inducted posthumously, the late Don Clason of Sarasota, Fla. served as the president of the Ohio Quarter Horse Association in 1976 and 1977.  He served as Congress show manager and was a national director of the American Quarter Horse Association. He and his wife, Mimi implemented the first small-fry class at the Congress.  

Vic Clark (inducted in 2014)

The late Vic Clark of Shelby, Ohio served as the President of the Ohio Quarter Horse Association in 1997 and 1998. Vic has been on the Ohio Quarter Horse Association’s board of directors for more than 30 years and a Congress Tri-Chairmen for 19 years.  He serves as an NRHA judge and is a CPA and a partner of an accounting firm in Mansfield, Ohio. 

Fritz Leeman (inducted in 2014)

Fritz Leeman of Massillon, Ohio served as the President of the Ohio Quarter Horse Association from 1990 through 1992. Fritz has been a Director of the Ohio Quarter Horse Association for 30 years and has served as Congress Tri-Chairman. He is also an AQHA Director at Large. Fritz and his wife Carol operate a 200-acre breeding facility.

Denny Thorsell (inducted in 2014)

Denny Thorsell of Burbank, Ohio served as a Director of the Ohio Quarter Horse Association for 17 years and a Congress Tri-Chairman for 9 years. He also serves on the AQHA Judges Committee and was an AQHA Steward for many years.

Dr. Scott Myers (inducted in 2021)

Scott Myers of North Hampton, received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from The Ohio State University in 1985. After many years of working besides his wife, Dr. Leslie Cook, he began serving on the Ohio Quarter Horse Association’s board of directors and later as a Congress Tri-Chairman. In 2012, Dr. Myers became the CEO of the Ohio Quarter Horse Association. In March of 2022, Dr. Myers was elected President of the American Quarter Horse Association. Dr. Myers is a past president of OQHA and a past national director of the National Snaffle Bit Association. 

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