Your Ultimate Guide to the Devon Horse Show
The Main Line equestrian tradition returns after two years off. Here’s what to expect.
After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the oldest and largest outdoor multi-breed horse show in the country is returning to Devon. Started in 1896, this Main Line institution combines equestrians, family fun, fashion, and tradition over 11 days. Whether you’re there for the horses, the hats, or the cheese fries, here’s everything you need to know.
It all starts on May 26th and runs through June 5th. Located at the Devon Horse Show grounds in Chester County, the show is almost as old as the Main Line itself, and it definitely feels that way. While the Pennsylvania Railroad’s “Main Line” route through Philadelphia’s western suburbs came to define the region, Devon Horse Show’s website explains:
Although families arrived to the Main Line by train, once settled they used horses as their primary form of transportation. Horse-drawn vehicles were used to go to church, to town, and to the market. On May 22, 1896 a meeting was called by the gentlemen of the Main Line area inviting their friends and neighbors to “effect an organization for the purpose of holding a Horse Show at Devon.”
Sounds like a very exciting time for the gentlemen of the Main Line. Anyway, the Country Fair part of the event was added in 1919, and the rest is history. Every spring (minus the past two years, due to COVID) around Memorial Day, competitors from all over the country attend this nationally-recognized equestrian event — and locals come to watch, play, shop, eat, see and be seen.
You can come for one day for $16 ($8 for kids under 5 and seniors), or for the whole 11-day extravaganza ($85 for a general-admission pass). Some special events — like the Grand Prix on June 2nd and the Ladies Day hat contest and luncheon on June 1st — require an extra ticket, as does assigned seating (that’ll run you anywhere from $165 to $325 for the show). Tickets are available online, or you can purchase them at the box office the day of. Proceeds from the show benefit Bryn Mawr Hospital.
What to See
The Devon Horse Show brings together top equestrians from a variety of disciplines including jumpers, equitation, hunters, eventing, Saddlebred, hackney, coaching, and more. In addition to the general equestrian competition, there are three exhibitions: Mounted Games on May 27th, Radnor Hunt Fox Hounds on May 28th (riders navigate a horse through a pack of hounds!), and the Shetland Pony Steeplechase on May 29th and 30th.
The Sapphire Grand Prix takes place the evening of June 2nd, with the best riders competing for the Devon Blue Ribbon (and also $250,000). Tickets for that event are $20 for general admission.
Too many horses? You’re in the wrong place, but okay, go see some dogs! The evening of May 26th features the Dog Show, complete with a costume contest and prizes for curliest tail, slowest, fastest, waggiest, and more. There’s also a dog selfie station, because after dressing up your dog, you know you want all the photos. If you’re interested in doing more than just watching, sign up on-site from 6-6:45 p.m. that night; the show starts promptly at 7 p.m. All entries are $5.
Want even more old-timey vibes? On May 29th starting at 11 a.m., watch carriage drivers travel through the streets of Devon for the annual Pleasure Drive. You don’t even need a show ticket for this one, just follow along on the map to find them.
New for this year, Devon After Dark runs from May 30th through June 4th, with musical performances each night from 9:30 p.m. to midnight. Tickets for the whole series are available online for $150.
What to Eat
Two words: Devon Fries.
Two more words: Lemon Sticks.
The food at the Devon Horse Show is just as much a tradition as the activities. There’s a candy stand with fudge and those aforementioned lemon sticks (a candy stick stuck in a sugary lemon half); across from that, you’ll find Food Alley with fair favorites like funnel cake, fries, and ice cream. There’s also a Garden Café with healthy stuff like salads, but probably just stick to the cheese fries.
Another Devon tradition, the Devon Tea Cart has been part of the show for over 100 years now. Go for a giant, icy sweet tea — don’t forget to add mint — along with some tea sandwiches for good measure.
The Country Fair
In addition to the horse show, Devon hosts a Midway at the Country Fair with rides (carousel, Ferris wheel, spinning teacups, you get the picture) and carnival games with prizes. You can buy ride tickets as you go, or buy an unlimited day-pass wristband for $25.
The Country Fair also has plenty of vendor stands to shop, from equestrian gear to antique home goods to colorful clothing and fancy hats; plus an official Devon Horse Show souvenir shop with clothes, tote bags, stable blankets and more.
I know we’re in Devon, but this is where real estate editor Sandy Smith would say we go “full Gladwyne,” because it’s time for Ladies Day. Traditionally held the same day as the ladies’ sidesaddle competition (June 1st this year), the day is a chance to break out your finest Main Line cosplay outfit and don a hat with its own property tax. The day includes a highly anticipated hat contest — buy a ticket to enter, get a number, and parade past the judges. This year’s theme is Feathers and Frocks so expect some peak avian artistry from milliners like Tiffany Arey, who always brings the style. Following the hat contest is an optional luncheon in the Devon Club (which also requires an extra ticket).
This year’s show also has two Family Days on May 26th and May 31st, which feature kids’ crafts and discounts on food and rides. The May 31st date also includes free back-barn tours from 3-6 p.m., where you can see the stables and get a behind-the-scenes look at how the participants get ready for the show.
In addition to the family days, there is also a children’s tea on May 29th. Kids ages 4 and up can come for a tea party, crafts, and a special gift. Tickets for the “Itty Bitty Tea Party” cost $30.
The Devon Horse Show grounds are located at 23 Dorset Road in Devon. Limited parking is available for spectators at the lot on Dorset Road, across from the main entrance. A parking pass for all 11 days of the show guarantees you space in the lot, but will run you $325. Single-day parking passes range from $10-$40 depending on the day, but they are limited. You can also try parking at nearby lots, including St. John’s Presbyterian Church a few blocks away from the show, which offers discounted parking. If you are taking public transportation, take the Paoli/Thorndale line to Devon station, which is directly across the street from the horse show grounds.