Local celebrities prepare for annual harness race fundraiser

HARNESS RACE: Jennifer Bollman Wiener (left) learns how to ride a sulky from Matt Currie (right) at the Currie family farm. (Pioneer photo/Ryan Zuke)

HARNESS RACE: Jennifer Bollman Wiener (left) learns how to ride a sulky from Matt Currie (right) at the Currie family farm. (Pioneer photo/Ryan Zuke)

BIG RAPIDS — Five local celebrities are preparing to participate in the Mecosta County Agricultural Free Fair annual harness race fundraiser July 11, or as they would describe it: “Preparing enough to feel comfortable with the horse.”

Gary Lambrix (Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce board president), Jon Coles (Ferris State University associate athletic director), Jennifer Bollman Wiener (attorney at Jennifer Bollman Wiener PLLC), Brian Miller (Big Rapids Department of Public Safety detective) and Elyse Leach (director of music at St. Mary and St. Paul Catholic Parish and St. Mary’s Catholic School) have been practicing riding a sulky, a two-wheeled, one-horse carriage, at Currie family farms to train for the grandstand charity event.

The most challenging part is getting acclimated to sitting there behind the horse, because you’re so close to it,” said Lambrix, who is racing to raise funds for the Animal Rescue Coalition of Mecosta County. “When you’re that close to the horse, you have that fear of the unknown.”

Miller, who is riding on behalf of Manna Pantry of Big Rapids, compared the experience to a car chase.

The quicker you go, the more of a rush you have,” he said. “It’s like being in a pursuit, because when you’re in a pursuit, you don’t know exactly what the other driver is going to do.”

Getting over the fear of the unknown is not the only challenge the riders will be faced with, Lambrix said.

You have to keep the horse under a run, too,” he said. “Right now, it’s tough to
distinguish the difference between a run and a trot. You have to listen to get the rhythm.”

The group said it has not yet decided on a friendly wager for winning the race, but it might come up with something by race night.

The most important thing for the racers, though, is remembering who they are racing for. Wiener is racing for the Susan P. Wheatlake Regional Cancer Center, Leach for St. Mary’s and Coles is sponsored by FSU.

It shines a light on all of the organizations we’re associated with,” Lambrix said.

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Posted by Ryan Zuke

Ryan is the sports editor for the Big Rapids Pioneer, covering local prep sports and Ferris State athletics. He can be contacted at (231) 592-8363 or rzuke@pioneergroup.com.

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