BY JORDAN LANGER
The Silver Buckle Saddle Club has been a fixture in Plymouth for 48 years but that doesn’t mean the club is a household name.
"I don’t think a lot of people even know we are back here," said Gayle Murray of the club’s grounds located off County Road 47 between Dunkirk Lane North and Vicksburg Lane.
Murray, who is on the club’s directors, and others within Silver Buckle’s leadership, planned an open house event June 2 with the hopes of making more people aware of the equestrian focused club.
Although the turn out was modest – around 100 people visited the 10-acre property – the goal of inspiring interest in the club was accomplished.
Many people, like Brian Lacono from Maple Grove, inquired about riding lessons, said Murray. Lacono, who had his eyes fixed upon his 3-year-old son who was being led around a ring on a pony, said he is not only interested in riding lessons for his son but also in becoming a member. Lacono and his wife were unaware of the club until they saw a sign advertising the open house.
Part of the reason why Silver Buckle lacks name recognition in Plymouth and surrounding suburbs can be attributed to the fact that people can’t see the arena and grounds from County Road 47, Murray said.
Even though there is a large sign near the road stating the club is open to the public, many passersby miss it.
Jeff Dahl has lived in Plymouth for nearly a decade but never knew he lived four miles from Silver Buckle, he said. He and his daughter only found out about the club when they, like the Lacono’s, saw a sign advertising the open house.
Dahl said he was looking for something he and his young daughter, Celia, could do on the recent Sunday afternoon and was happy to learn about the event.
After purchasing raffle tickets and watching a pole-weaving event in the large arena, Celia did something she was eager to do: ride a pony.
The purpose of the open house was not only to raise awareness for residents but also in the business community.
Because the property taxes have increased nearly $7,000 since 2003, the nonprofit club is seeking sponsors to help pay the $8,049 tax bill in addition to the other expenses, said former Club President James Kukral.
The spike in property taxes is linked to the repeal of the Limited Market Value Tax law and the development of property that surrounds the club’s land, he said.
Construction will soon begin on a development of 128 single-family homes kitty corner to Silver Buckle, on the east side of Dunkirk Lane and south of County Road 47.
The club has already partnered with various sponsors – State Bank of Hamel, Minnesota Horse Council, QT Commercial Roofing and Construction – who provided a financial lifeline for the club.
"If it wouldn’t have been for them, we may not have been able to pay the taxes," said Kukral.
Last year was a particularly bad year because excessive rainfall forced the club to cancel several horse shows resulting in Silver Buckle having "very small revenue," according to the February newsletter.
When attendance is high, the club can hope to generate around $12,000 a year from the horse shows, but that doesn’t include paying for the judge, purchasing ribbons and trophies and printing the show bill, explained Kukral.
Unfortunately, the rain was again a disruption this year. The first show of the year scheduled May 26 was canceled because of excessive rainfall that preceded the event. According to meteorologist Paul Huttner’s blog, 3 to 6 inches of rain fell overnight on May 24 in the west metro and rain continued until May 26.
Silver Buckle members obviously viewed the cancellation with disappointment because it puts them "behind the eight ball" to start out the season, Murray said.
The budget shortfall threatens the existence of the club and the ownership of the land, she added.
Forging partnerships with additional corporate sponsors is at the crux of the club’s survival plan. In addition to including a prospective sponsor’s business in the show bills and other club literature, an area would be devoted in the arena for a sign displaying the logo and company name.
Despite the hardships "the club is not in dire straits," stressed Kukral.
When asked about the financial situation, long-time member Diane Marquette from Eden Prairie reiterated Kukral’s sentiment and chose instead to focus on the positive aspects.
One of the founding members, Marquette said Silver Buckle is a family-oriented club that welcomes people off all experience levels, young and old.
Silver Buckle is made up of around 50 families who use the arena to practice or simply trail ride around the property. Although the club is centered on recreational and competitive horse riding, the club-sanctioned activities include bonfires, youth pizza nights, and campouts.
One member will even be exchanging wedding vows at Silver Buckle later this year.
The next horse show will be 8 a.m. June 16 at the club’s grounds, 16700 County Road 47, Plymouth.
For more information on Silver Buckle visit their website: silverbucklesaddleclub.com.