Downing Family Values

...and on the eighth day, God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.

CN ran this story back on February 26, 2007 and in light of the recent passing of Elmer Milosh, we would like to run it again, to show respect for the Milosh and Downing families.

LouAnn Swartzlander and Hazel "Boots" Milosh, those gracious, stylish, unflappable announcers of the WPRD and Crawford County Fair Horse Shows, did me the honor of granting telephone interviews, and talking with these two colorful characters was a real treat.

The WPRD is the Western Pennsylvania Riding and Driving Club and it runs all summer long out at the Fairgrounds.

True-blue Conneaut Lakers, this sister duo has long been a major part of making sure the horse shows run like a well-oiled machine, keeping the classes moving on track and on time, always respectful and professional, no matter what breed or riding discipline is performing.

Many-a-year, the games on horseback at Fair run way past midnight and the voices of these famous femme announcers are just as clear and strong at that time, as they were at 9:00am that morning, making sure each rider’s time is stated and logged.

Topping off this family affair is brother "Buck" Downing, always seen in his cowboy hat and helping out as Ring Steward, making the art of presenting horses at these show grounds very enjoyable.

Buck is always a familiar face around the gate at the show ring, though he hasn’t been the full-time Ring Steward as of late.

The daughters of Richard and Hazel Downing of the North Braddock area of Pittsburgh, "Boots" and LouAnn were first introduced to the Conneaut Lake area when Richard brought the family up to spend summers at Shadewell Cottage inside Conneaut Lake Park.

Drawn to horses from the start, young Buck Downing took a job at the Pony Track, back when a Mr. Beatty was running it, eventually moving on to working at a riding stable which was located at the Park.

Did you know there used to be a race track at Conneaut Lake Park?

The Downing kids used to go horseback riding there, in and all around the Park and up Reed Avenue, when it was still a dirt road, never coming home until after dark.

While Boots worked on her tan under the beautiful Conneaut Lake sun, LouAnn practiced her riding skills, including galloping and jumping.

She also "enjoyed ‘racking’ on a 5-gaiter," in a Lane Fox style saddle.

In 1958, she celebrated Conneaut Lake’s Centennial by riding in the parade with the "Nation Riders."

LouAnn met her husband, Norman Swartzlander, right in Conneaut Lake Park.

They have two daughters, Carol and Sandy.

Both girls began riding at an early age, joining the Odds’n’Ends 4-H Club, showing there, the Crawford County Fair and also in open shows.

With help from the expertise of their Uncle Buck, and under the watchful eye of their mother, both girls excelled with their riding.

Carol rode the POA Pony, "Hideaway’s Senorita," and the Appaloosa, "Hideaway’s Bobtail," and Sandy rode a Quarter Horse/Arab named "PJ’s Little Wonder."

Sandy’s daughter, LouAnn’s grand daughter, is also interested in horses.

Young Linsey Loreno, is an aspiring horsewoman from the Greenville area, keeping up a wonderful family tradition.

LouAnn Swartzlander has been announcing horse shows at the Crawford County Fair for 38 years.

She fondly recalls cooking dinner at the end of the tent one year when Carol and Sandy were showing, and having Earl Austin stop by to join the family for the evening meal.

She has been recognized at 4-H banquets for 30-plus years of service.

LouAnn also announces for the WPRD, and has been with them for 18 years, all the way to when that club was showing out on Rt. 285.

LouAnn states she always looks forward to another year of horse shows and that the things she enjoys most about being a show announcer are, "watching all the pretty horses showing, being around the people, and seeing the kids who had showed 25 years ago all grown up and having children of their own, and now those kids are showing in that same ring. It’s amazing."

No duo is complete without a sidekick, and although we rarely hear Hazel Milosh over the speaker, her horse show duties are equally important.

Affectionately nicknamed "Boots," she takes care of all the paperwork handed to her up in the booth, keeps class schedule and number of participants in order, determines how many ribbons or vouchers are needed, puts trophies and awards along side the ribbons, and keeps an eagle eye on any pony that becomes too frisky in the ring, causing the "All Stop," order to be given.

The Milosh family is a prominent one in the Conneaut Lake area.

Her husband, the late Elmer Milosh, would smile politely when the subject of equines and horse shows was mentioned, and he was known to open his home to wayward cowgirls whose pick-up truck had conked out on the roadside. (Roseanne and Arlene Staab, circa 1981.)

Boots and her late husband have one son, Glenn, of whom Boots is very proud.

Glenn Milosh was very popular in the halls of good, old Conneaut Lake High School, and he was voted "Best Dressed," in his graduating class.

He remains close friends with many of the people from school, especially those who are musically inclined.

Boots says she always looks forward to being in the announcer’s stand for the first show of the season, continuing a tradition of over 30 years.

"Being a people person," she says, "is what I enjoy most about being an announcer. Getting a chance to catch up with friends I haven’t seen since last summer, and watching all the kids and horses performing."

Their brother, Buck Downing, is a sensible cowboy who can tell a good horse when he sees one, looks you in the eye when he talks, and knows if someone is feeding him a line of bull.

He is soft spoken and polite, and likes a good horse story.

Lately, he seems to be blowing in the wind; sometimes you see him at the gate and sometimes you don’t.

I guess that’s the prerogative of old cowboys.

Think you can do a better job at it? You try horse announcing for the next thirty years, then.

I’ll salute the Downing and Milosh Families with the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, "Happy Trails to You."