Lakeside Equestrian Park galloping toward completion

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 "This is St. Patrick’s Day and we thought it would be a good time to get people out and spend their money for a good cause,” laughs legendary Lakeside rancher Donald Bright, also known as  “Donnie” by his friends, well respected for his several decades worth of community work that earned him the “Citizen of the Year” award nine years ago. 

 "This is St. Patrick’s Day and we thought it would be a good time to get people out and spend their money for a good cause,” laughs legendary Lakeside rancher Donald Bright, also known as  “Donnie” by his friends, well respected for his several decades worth of community work that earned him the “Citizen of the Year” award nine years ago. 

Bright is joined by more than a dozen volunteers from the Lakeside Optimist Club and the East County Equestrian Foundation to help raise money for the state of the art equestrian park in Moreno Valley that includes a covered arena. This facility could place Lakeside as the epicenter for equestrian events and activities in Southern California, such as horse shows, barrel racing, training, dog and cat shows, dressage, rodeos, and farmers markets with ample space to rent out to the public for social events.  

Julie Murphy, President of the foundation and Lakeside native, explained the next steps in the process of getting the project off the ground.

“It’s been a very long time coming, a long six years and it’s going to be funded in July by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors,” said Murphy. “Then it will go out to bid and probably break ground late 2018, early 2019.”

The community was initially required to raise $150,000 for collateral expenses, but the county decided to cover that as well. However, the foundation did not give up on the fundraising efforts, citing expenses with equipment and maintenance. 

Marty Barnard, Vice President, said there is not a hurry.

“There is no time limit, but we will get there,” he said. “Things are getting close and it’s getting pretty exciting. We’ve got something planned every month, all year long.” 

Bright is serving corned beef and cabbage in the kitchen at the VFW center located at Lindo Lake. People keep coming despite the chill and the rain. Kids are happily grabbing green glazed sugar cookies before dinner and enjoy the honor to call out the lucky numbers for the raffle drawing. 

Counting the years since he first came down here from Southern Indiana to help his brother build a house – and then staying, Bright said a lot of life has happened for him here. He found his wife, Margaret, and they raised a family of two kids together. 

“Sixty years and not bored yet,” he said. 

Bright has his own six horses, plus 25 he is boarding at his Lone Oak Ranch in El Monte Valley. 

Bright came on the board with the foundation last summer and believes the covered arena is long overdue. 

“El Monte Valley is about four miles long and there’s close to a thousand horses there and that’s just a small part of town,” he said. “Lakeside needs a facility like this, it needed it for the last fifty years. There are more horses per capita in San Diego County than there are in Texas.” 

Treasurer Cheryl Erpelding calculates that they have almost raised enough money to meet their goal. 

“We are getting close to $50,000, that’s third of the way,” she said. “Today we have a great event with a great turnout and we are getting a lot of enthusiasm from all across East County communities.” Erpelding points out that the goal of the monthly events is to inspire people to support the equestrian park by offering a wide variety of activities to attract the public into equine sports.

Cold beer packed in large buckets of ice, hot and moist corned beef in the oven, plus cabbage with veggies boiling outside helped by piles of fire wood seems to be the perfect recipe to attract friends and families who brought their children to enjoy a night out with great prizes to win, fun and banter – and everybody united by a common dream to make the town a better place for generations to come. 

Scott Dunn is tending to the hot ovens outside with a group of volunteers from the Lakeside Optimist Club. Dunn is slowly persuaded to give up the secret for what many guests called “the best brisket ever.” He says, “it’s beer.” Not to drink, but to cook with it, while drinking some. 

“No, really, beer because it takes out the brininess and the salt,” he said. “When you cook with 50/50 beer and water mix, it makes it better.”

Dunn learned to cook from his mom, so he cannot go wrong with any of his recipes. A Lakeside resident for the past 25 years, he is well known as a dedicated volunteer for the Optimist club “to raise money for the kids and the youth of our community,” per his words.

Bright estimates he served around 75 diner plates, which adds to the raffle tickets and prizes to reach a very encouraging total of $1,569 for one evening. That raises the grand total to $48,506 with more than $100,000 to go. 

However, the foundation has a full calendar of events ahead and with such hard working board members and volunteers and a very united and generous community, nobody is worried about reaching the goal. 

All are invited to the first annual Easter Egg Hunt organized by the Equestrian Foundation on March 31 starting at 9 a.m. and hosted by the Hazy Meadow Ranch in El Monte Valley, Lakeside. 

The full list of events and additional info about the equestrian park with options to contribute are here:  https://lakesideequestrianpark.com/

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