Know by many in Sedalia as a thoughtful, former educator and school administrator, Bob Reavis has announced horse shows for the Missouri State Fair Society Horse Show for 50 years. Reavis will be honored Saturday evening, on the last day of the Society Horse Show, for five decades of smooth-voiced announcing, his humor and also kindness to others in the ring.
“Bob is an institution,” Evelyn Porter, Society Horse Show secretary, said. “Anyone who can do that for 50 years … I’m pretty sure that there’s nobody at the fairgrounds that’s done that in that capacity for that long.”
Porter said Reavis has always loved horses and that he worked for several local stables when he was a young man.
Information submitted by Reavis’ wife Ann said when he came home from a show in 1952 at the Minnesota State Fair “he literally walked through the door at his home in time to change clothes and go to school to start his senior year.”
In 1953 he attended a show with Tuck Higgins in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and returned home “just in time for the Missouri State Fair show.”
Porter, who has been with the Society show since 1960, said she taught with Reavis when he was at the Sedalia Middle School. Reavis retired as principal of SMS in 1990.
“He is truly the voice of the horse show,” she noted. “An announcer, if you get a really good announcer, he runs the show. Because he knows how to pace it, he knows how to keep it going … He knows the background of every breed, he knows how the breed developed. He’s just so knowledgeable about everything, and he’s funny. He’s always cracking jokes.
“He’s been there and done it for so long that he knows everybody that’s been around anytime at all,” she added. “We’re seeing second generations start to show. He can give background on them and talk about that too, and that makes it more interesting.”
Many people who know Reavis, either from his education career of from the show ring, say he often thinks of others before himself.
“He used to take such good care of his young teachers,” Porter said. “He would find fences for the guys to paint or he would offer to give some of the new teachers advances if they needed it. That’s why everybody loved him when he was at the middle school. It was such a good family atmosphere.”
Show participant Marcia Miller Turner remembers her first show as a child at the MSF in the Walking Horse Class. Miller wrote down she was showing for E.F. Stickler Stables and the horses had been “stripped” and she was off her horse. Her groom didn’t return to help her and she was unable to reach the stirrups.
“Bob came out of center ring,” she wrote. “He gave her leg-up and said ‘get up babe and ride.’”
Recently while measuring horses for the MSF Horsemanship for 4-H and FFA Show, Reavis recounted some of his favorite memories of the Missouri State Fairgrounds and the horse shows.
He said he thought it was in 1988 that they moved the horse shows from the Coliseum over to the Mathewson Exhibition Center.
“Prior to that we were over at the coliseum, and that’s not air-conditioned,” he said. “Some of the memories over there would be, some of the classes. We had American Saddle Breed Fine Harness Futurity 2-Year-Old Class. We had 20-something in a class. If you go over there and look, there’s no way you can get 20 horses in there but we did.”
He remembers being on the fairgrounds in 1952 when a tornado came through.
“I was in Barn A up there watching it,” he said. “In junior high and high school I worked with different people and we stayed with (the horses) night and day. That’s when it went through the carnival grounds at 11:30 or midnight. It killed somebody at the carnival and a bunch of us helped cut out the Budweiser Horses that were in a tent south of the Coliseum.”
He said the horses were upset but weren’t hurt.
“There’s been some really good horses showing at the Missouri State Fair,” he added.
Some of the horses he remembers best are Shepherd of the Hills, Midnight All, King Lee, Stonewall Chestnut Queen, Ace High and Bula Bula.
Reavis said the Society Horse Show used to take place during the MSF, but now it’s a week before the fair begins; this has advantages and disadvantages.
“There’s two ways to look at it, it’s a flip of a coin,” he added. “Exhibitors like it from one aspect they don’t have to fight the gates and they can park anywhere they want when they get in here; the flip side of that coin is, the negative side is, there is nobody to watch the shows. Because there’s nobody at the fair.”
Reavis said he started announcing shows because of new horse show manager Mrs. Claude Drew and E. F. Strickler, who was in charge of stabling the horses in 1956.
“I had worked for him off and on taking care of his horses,” Reavis said.
From 1956 to the early ’60s Reavis would use the mic at the Coliseum to call the horse classes back to the barn.
“Then John Sutliff, he was the one who got me into this announcing,” he said. “He was from Huntsville, he announced the State Fair for years. I’d be up there and he’d be down in the center. One day he got caught in traffic, he could not get in. So they said ‘get down here and do this in the center until John can get in.’”
He said he began to announce and Sutliff was finally able to make it to the Coliseum.
“When he got in and saw me announcing, he said ‘just keep it, I’m going over to get something to drink,’” Reavis said laughing.
They became good friends and Reavis would help announce shows for Sutliff if he had extra, sometimes traveling all over the state.
“In ‘63 he announced the horse show and then he passed away after the horse show,” Reavis said.
In 1964 Jack Atkinson, of Fulton, began to announce for the MSF Horse Show.
“After the ‘64 show he died,” Reavis said. “So, ‘65 and here I am today! That’s how I got into it.”
Reavis, who runs a full 609-acre cattle farm in La Monte, has announced at horse shows all over the country since the early 1960s.
“I’ll be 80 next year, and I think it’s about time somebody else start doing it,” he said. “I haven’t decided for sure.”
Although he is undecided about remaining as an announcer, the years have not slowed Reavis down.
“Right now we just keep going,” he said of himself and his wife Ann. “When I leave here, I’ll be going home and baling hay.”
Reavis will be honored with a plaque for his 50 years of service announcing the MSF Society Horse Show at 6 p.m. Saturday during the show inside the Mathewson Exhibition Center.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 826-1000 ext. 1481 or @flbemiss.