The 61st annual Western Weekend began this Saturday morning with a 4-H Fair at the Dance Palace.

Horses and cows were on display at the Giacomini Ranch field across Sixth Street. Here Sawyer Johnson of Inverness rides an enormous horse named Major, which is being led by Sawyer’s father Chip Johnson. The 18-hand Belgian (six feet high at the withers, i.e. shoulders) was purchased from Walt Disney Studios. Photo by Linda Petersen, West Marin Citizen

Western Weekend Queen Ashley Arndt shows off a Dorset sheep named Scarlet. The woolly sheep weighs about 200 pounds, she said.

Small animal judging: Judge Michele McClure examines a Mini-Rex. Showing her rabbit named Roo is Nicole Casartelli of Nicasio, a member of  Tri-Valley 4-H Club.

This two-day old Holstein from the Nunes Ranch on Point Reyes was a hit of the fair. Holding the calf, which has been named Buster, is Nathan Hemelt, who lives on the ranch.

Fairgoers were treated to a demonstration of horse vaulting, which amounts to gymnastics on horseback. A lunger holding a lunge line keeps the horse moving in a circle while the rider performs. Photo by Linda Petersen, West Marin Citizen

Called voltage in some parts of Europe, horse vaulting has traditionally been a popular sport in France, Germany, Holland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. More recently, horse vaulting has been gaining fans in the US, Brazil, and Australia.

During the 1970s, West Marin had one of the best vaulting teams anywhere. The team coached by Anne Dick of Point Reyes Station won the nationwide C Championship one year, moved up a division and won the B Championship the next year and ultimately won the A Championship. In 1979, the all-girl team won the International B Championship.


A Western Weekend barn dance Saturday evening drew a good-sized crowd to Toby’s Feed Barn. Musicians included Ingrid Noyes, Tawnya Kovach, Paul Shelasky, and Sue Walters. The caller was Erik Hoffman.

The queen’s coronation. During a break in the barn dance, last year’s Western Weekend Queen Mindy Borello adjusts the queen’s sash on 1010 Western Weekend Queen Ashley Arndt before presenting her with a trophy and crown. The contestant who sells the most Western Weekend raffle tickets is named queen.

Ashley, 16, who describes herself as “a fourth-generation rancher,” lives in the Point Reyes National Seashore on a ranch started in 1939 by her grandfather. Her parents are Rob and Joyce Arndt, and she has two sisters, Jessie, 14, and Katie, 13.

First Princess Taley Romo (left) receives a trophy, sash, and crown for having sold the second most tickets.

Second Princess Yazmin Rico (left) receives her ribbon, trophy, and crown for having sold the third most tickets. The queen and her court will all ride in this Sunday’s parade.