Secretariat Love Fest in Virginia

A sign that hung at Meadow Farm, a painting and photos ripped out of their frames, and dishes were among the items that were signed by Penny Chenery, Ron Turcotte, Jim Gaffney, and Bill Nack at the Secretariat celebration held Saturday in Caroline County, Virginia. Race fans lined up to have the connections of Secretariat sign the pictures, painting, posters and books that they either brought or purchased at the equestrian fair. In several cases, picture frames were removed so that fans could get original signatures.

"It's fantastic, the memorabilia that's showing up here. People are so enthusiastic. They love Penny, they love Ron, they love Jim and Secretariat, of course, " said Gary Wilson, Caroline County's economic development director.

The Caroline County board of supervisors sponsored the event, bringing in Secretariat's owner (Chenery), jockey (Turcotte), exercise rider (Gaffney) and biographer (Nack). During the event, fans watched film of Virginia-bred Secretariat capturing the Triple Crown.

Dale Cline of Hickory, North Carolina drove over 400 miles to have the quartet sign the Meadow Farm sign that he purchased from the Squashapenny Junction Antique Shop, just down the road from Secretariat's birthplace. Cline regularly stops at the store when he drives from North Carolina to the nation's capital. This weekend's trip was a special one for Cline, who said he drove up "just for this; we came up last night late and were going back right now."

The sign was not present when Chenery owned the farm and was erected after the farm was sold in 1979. Cline said that the sign is not for sale. "This is mine forever and it will go to whichever of my horse loving children wants it the most," said Cline.

Near the end of signing session, Turcotte looked over at Ms. Chenery and said, "Little did we know thirty years ago that we would be here and the horse would be more popular than ever."

"No, I had no idea," answered Chenery.

A resolution commemorating the 30th anniversary of Secretariat's Triple Crown triumph passed this year by Virginia's General Assembly was read aloud during the event. After the signing session, Chenery was scheduled to fly to Seattle, Washington for another event on Sunday.

"I love it, because we get so much love. People love the horse and they communicate that to us. It's always a pleasure," said Chenery. When asked about Saturday's event that was held within a 15-minute drive from Meadow Farm, Chenery replied, "I stop and chat a lot more because there are people who knew the horse and who knew Howard Gentry, the farm manager, and have other connections. This has been very nostalgic."