LAS VEGAS NV – The United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the world’s largest organization for industry communicators, conducted its annual two days of business meetings this past weekend at the Planet Hollywood hotel/casino along “the Strip” in this renowned gambling mecca. The weekend culminated in the Sunday evening celebration of the sport’s best and brightest stars of 2016, both human and equine, at the annual Dan Patch Annual Banquet, for which Hoosier Park in Indiana joined with USHWA as its first Dan Patch Banquet title presenters.
The presence of Hoosier Park, and several other high-recognition entities of the sport providing sponsorship of phases of the Dan Patch Banquet, was reflective of the hard work of many individuals in shoring up the financial bottom line of the organization, and then developing a plan upon which to expand and help make USHWA’s economic base even stronger.
This was perhaps the major theme of the USHWA weekend meetings, with Florida member Tom Hicks earning USHWA’s Member of the Year award for spearheading a diverse, hard-working committee that took a look at all of USHWA’s spending and income of recent years, and tried to find ways to minimize the former while maximizing the latter. A detailed report, emphasizing expansion of avenues of income, especially through the group’s website (www.ushww.org), was prepared, explained, and distributed to the assembled as a baseline for ongoing activities.
Association economics were very much prevalent in the annual by-law and rules & regulations change proposals. One proposition argued in most years again was taken to a vote: the debate whether it was more advantageous to continue the current method of announcing Horse, Trotter, and Pacer of the Year at the end of the calendar season to take advantage of significant international press exposure, or to announce these awards for the first time at the Dan Patch Banquet in order to heighten the drama and perhaps bring in additional revenue (e.g., through sponsoring streaming video). This year’s tabulation revealed that both sides’ arguments had merit: 20 Directors voted to move the announcement to the banquet while 15 favored keeping the announcement at year’s end, but this vote meant that the announcement will stay when it is, as under USHWA’s by-laws a 2/3 majority (here, 23 votes) would have been necessary for a by-law change.
The Directors of USHWA also voted on the two ballot candidates for this summer’s election for the Communicators Hall of Fame. Veteran Midwest announcer and auctioneer Carl Becker garnered the most support; the contest for the second spot was extremely tight, with the nod going to Dave Briggs of Harness Racing Update, who at the banquet would collect his record ninth John Hervey Award for excellence in writing about the Standardbred sport.
USHWA’s officers generally work on a two-year cycle, and since this was an “off-year” election, the same officials were retained for another year: Tim Bojarski as President; Shawn Wiles as 1st Vice President; Kim Rinker as 2nd Vice President; Chris Tully as Chairman of the Board; Barry Lefkowitz as Treasurer; and Jerry Connors as Secretary.