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Horsing Around: Recapping the Recent Wagon Rides and Fluvanna's Third Annual Equestrian-Themed Event

Updated: Jun 21

Two majestic black horses with glossy coats are harnessed side by side, each adorned with striking red and white bridle gear featuring a prominent letter ‘N’. Behind them, a historic red brick building with a distinctive round tower stands under a clear blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds, creating a picturesque contrast between the natural elegance of the horses and the architectural heritage.
Sam and Suzie stand under a bright blue sky in front of the the brick facade and quaint castle-like tower of the building, currently known as the "War Vets," where this year's horse-drawn wagon rides took place. [R.R. Keefer, FCHS/June 9, 2024]

This June, the Fluvanna Community Historical Society (FCHS) hosted its third annual "equestrian-themed" event featuring delightful horse-drawn wagon rides that took participants on a journey through the rich history of Fluvanna.

Originally scheduled to take place in February 2024, the event had to be postponed due to the record breaking lack of snow this past winter. Without the necessary conditions for horse-drawn cutter and sleigh rides, the Historical Society decided to hold this annual horse-themed event during the spring or summer season instead. The June weather provided a perfect backdrop for this historical adventure. The event ran true to its origins, however, featuring horses, the history of Fluvanna and the need to restore and preserve our community's heritage.

To find out more about this year's horse-drawn wagon rides, including photos and a highlight reel from the event, continue reading below.

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Overview of the Event: Pathways through History

A young child, wearing large, brown lensed glasses, a white top, with small blue and red graphics thereon, trimmed on the bottom in bright pink or magenta, and denim pants, holds a doll by her side while posing for a picture. The girl stands in the foreground, with an adult woman visible on the viewers left looking approvingly at the girl as she poses for the picture.  A dark-coated horse with a red decorative harness also looks on from the background, over the shoulder of the girl, almost as if the horse too is posing for the picture too. The trees in the background are large, full and green and the sky is bright blue with white cloud interspersed in the sky.
Diane Buck looks on amusedly as little Myla and Suzie (the horse) pause for a moment to pose for a picture at the Horse-Drawn Wagon Rides. [Photo by R. R. Keefer, FCHS/June 9, 2024]

The route for this year's horse-drawn wagon rides began at the War Vets, situated just a short distance from Fluvanna's historic Meeting House where the Historical Society in the past two years offered horse-drawn cutter and sleigh rides. As with these prior events, the horse-drawn wagon rides provided a brief trip to a bygone era, transporting participants to a time brimming with charm and history.

The War Vets property, once a focal point of a grand estate, held a special place in the hearts of those who cherished everything related to horses. The War Vets building itself, along with a few unique and distinctive gateways along Old Fluvanna, stand as reminders of a vast estate that once spanned across numerous acres. Within this expansive property, groves of trees, bridle paths, trails, ornamental bridges, springs and streams intertwined to create a picturesque landscape that community members enjoyed on foot, carriage, sleigh or horseback.

The event not only allowed attendees to partake in the enchanting experience of this bygone era, at a truly historic location, but also offered a unique opportunity to delve into Fluvanna's equestrian legacy. Through this event, participants gained a better appreciation for the community's development. They also got a peek into the rich history of this community that inspired and served as a model for the grand resort hotels that graced the shores of Chautauqua Lake later in the nineteenth century. Participants learned that Fluvanna helped lay the foundation for what would become Chautauqua Institution.

The event served as a bridge between the past and the present, inviting individuals to explore and celebrate the enduring legacy of Fluvanna's captivating history.

Mechanical Malfunction: A Hitch in our Giddy Up

A young, fair skinned boy with long, towheaded blond hair, wearing a long sleeved green shirt, extends his left hand out, palm up for a large black horse, adorned with red harness, to smell. The boy holds a colorful water bottle in his right arm, close to his body. The interaction takes place outdoors on a sunny day, with a large, brick building visible in the background, reminicist of a castle. The boy is facing the horse, capturing a moment of curiosity and connection.
Blair, Arlene Bonnett's grandson, extends his hand to Sam the horse as they get ready for a wagon ride. [R. R. Keefer, FCHS/June 9, 2024]

On the first day of the horse-drawn carriage rides, the event organizers discovered a problem caused by a mechanical issue with the wagon. This unexpected challenge temporarily delayed the rides, but the volunteers and community members rallied together, staying resilient and positive throughout. The "tongue" on the wagon was a bit stubborn, creating some difficulties for the horses and making steering a bit tricky. The event organizers made a collective decision to prioritize safety above all else, in addition to the comfort of the horses and passengers alike. Consequently, FCHS rescheduled all the rides booked for the first day of the event, giving ample time to conduct a thorough inspection and address any necessary repairs. All of the participants who originally booked rides for the first day expressed their complete understanding and full support for the decision made to postpone their rides. FCHS invited everyone to return the following day and guaranteed a spot for all.

Thanks to our fantastic friends at Laff-N-Lyons Ranch, the problem was swiftly resolved that very afternoon. What an incredible team effort! The following day, community members came out in full force, enjoying the beautiful weather, the camaraderie and the opportunity to learn more about Fluvanna’s history.

Preserving our Heritage: A Call to Action

An old red brick building with a round tower and arched doorways is framed by a clear blue sky with scattered clouds. The lush greenery surrounding the structure and a white tent with orange traffic cones in the foreground suggest a community event, blending historical architecture with modern-day activities.
The historic castle-like, red brick building, known today as the "War Vets," is pictured here ready to receive Historical Society guests for horse-drawn wagon rides. Constructed in the late 1800s to serve a very different purpose than it does today, the building stands against the backdrop of a serene sky shining as a beacon of our community’s heritage. [R.R. Keefer, FCHS/June 8, 2024]

The Historical Society President, Rick Keefer, accompanied each group sharing not only stories about this unique property's past, but also the need for our community to preserve what remains of this and other historical treasures. Participants also learned more about Fluvanna's United Neighbors (FUN) and the Historical Society's vision to restore some of what has been lost. This event not only sought to bring the past to life, but also highlight the importance of maintaining and celebrating our heritage.

Through the horse-drawn wagon rides, the Historical Society once again demonstrated what lies at the heart of the Society's endeavors: a deep commitment to not only recounting these invaluable stories but also inspiring people to participate in the preservation and restoration of our shared history. By encouraging collaboration and support from the community, the Fluvanna Community Historical Society aims to ensure Fluvanna's legacy is safeguarded and restored so future generations can learn from and appreciate our history.

FCHS warmly welcomes everyone who holds our community dear to partake in the noble endeavor of safeguarding and restoring our heritage. Membership in the Historical Society, and endorsing the FUN Pledge, demonstrates commitment to the vigilant guardianship of Fluvanna’s historic sites, the revitalization of our communal areas and the passing on to future generations of the places and stories that define and celebrate the unique character of our community—and the spirit of America overall.

Our Thanks

A photograph of two adults and a girl (all three wearing glasses) standing next to a horse with decorative harness. The horse appears to be large, with a white and black coat, and is equipped with ornate tack possibly. They are outdoors on a sunny day with trees in the background. The girl is wearing a sun dress, the man is wearing a tshirt, jeans and a baseball cap and the woman is similarly dressed as the man, but with a green top.
Paul and Laurie Volpe pose with their granddaughter, Annabelle, next to Sam (the horse) after putting in a full day's work volunteering at this year's horse-drawn wagon rides. [R.R. Keefer, FCHS/June 9, 2024]

The Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Laff-N-Lyon Ranch for providing the horses and wagon for this event. The grace and beauty of the horses, along with the rustic allure of the wagon, truly elevated the experience for all attendees, transporting them (and bystanders throughout the neighborhood) back in time to a bygone era. Likewise, FCHS thanks our nonprofit colleagues at the War Vets for generously sharing their property for the rides and allowing the Historical Society to share with the entire community the history of this property that in a deeper sense belongs to us all.

This event was made possible, once again, by the unwavering dedication of the Historical Society's exceptional team of volunteers. Their commitment and support were instrumental in bringing the horse-drawn wagon rides to the community. Special thanks to the Volpe family for spearing heading this year's event. Paul's efforts in arranging the venue with the War Vets, Laurie's provision of cookies, mini-cupcakes and lemonade for all attendees and welcoming each participant upon arrival were truly appreciated.

Thank you to everyone who participated and helped make this event a memorable success. We look forward to continuing this tradition and celebrating Fluvanna’s rich equestrian history for years to come.

Explore Event Highlights in our Exclusive Shared Photo Gallery

Two horses with black and white coats, adorned with red and silver harnesses, stand side by side in a parking lot, in front of a red wagon. In the background, a driver and passenger, in dark attire, sit atop the wagon. This spot is surrounded by lush greenery.
Sam and Suzie stand ready to give rides for the Historical Society's third annual equestrian themed event. [R.R. Keefer, FCHS/June 9, 2024]

FCHS members can view highlights from this year's horse-drawn wagon rides in the event's 'photo album' available online within the Historical Society's Shared Photo Gallery. By accessing the gallery, one can view pictures and videos showcasing participants and unique and memorable aspects of the event.

Please note: Historical Society membership is required to unlock this feature. To view this event's 'photo album' in the Shared Photo Gallery, one must join the Historical Society’s official website, Fluvanna’s “Virtual MeetingHouse” (sign-up here), and log in with an account that includes a paid Historical Society membership (join here).

For assistance joining the website, signing up for a paid FCHS membership or if you need assistance linking or logging into your account, please email us at or call +1 (716) 804-7163.

Visit the Shared Photo Gallery now to relive and help bring the event to life.


Video Highlights

Click the following video following video to watch a brief highlight reel from this year's Horse-Drawn Wagon Rides (Virtual MeetingHouse and a paid FCHS membership is not required):

The logo of the Fluvanna Community Historical Society, featuring a stylized version of Fluvanna's Meeting House in bright yellow sun rising in the background, the cemetery graves on the other side of the Meeting House and underneath the words, "Fluvanna Community Historical Society."

The Fluvanna Community Historical Society is a registered 501(c)(3) organization, provisionally chartered by the Regents of the University of the State of New York, and dedicated to connecting our community with our past, with each other and with a brighter future.


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