Michele Hoitenga wins 20th annual Celebrity Harness Race

Celebrity driver Michele Hoitenga and horse Make America Great Again took home first place honors at the 20th-annual Celebrity Harness Race in Big Rapids. (Pioneer photos/Maxwell Harden)

BIG RAPIDS — Five local celebrities put their skills to the test on Tuesday during the 20th-annual Celebrity Harness Race.
The hours of practice paid off for celebrity driver Michele Hoitenga and horse Make America Great Again, who edged out Tim Haist and his horse Big Red to claim the victory.
“I would get up at four in the morning and come here to practice at six,” Hoitenga said. “We wanted to do it when it was cool outside. We practiced five times before getting out here. The race itself was fun; The horse pretty much knew what he was doing.
“I was just along for the ride.”
Hoitenga — a State Rep. (R-Manton) — was racing on behalf of Mecosta-Osceola United Way a nonprofit charitable organization that aims to pool efforts in fundraising and support for communities in both Mecosta and Osceola counties.
“I’m so excited to be able to donate money for a great cause,” Hoitenga said. “They’re an amazing organization.”
Half of the funds raised from the event will go toward United Way, while the other half will be donated to the charities of the other four drivers’ choosing.
The amount of funding raised was not available as of press time.
Hoitenga didn’t regret her decision to race and was ready to meet the challenge head-on.
“I was encouraged to do it,” she said. “I thought it would be fun. I didn’t realize how intense it would be at the time, but I’m glad I did it.”
Big Rapids Public Schools superintendent Tim Haist raced for Friends of Ferris and Father Jegar Fickel raced on behalf of St. Mary’s School.
Lake-Osceola State Bank Senior Vice President John Duvall raced for Racing For Artworks and Jessica Wallace for Women’s Information Service Inc.

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