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Feature story: Beginning with Betsy

For 40 years, Atherton's Betsy Glikbarg has coordinated the Menlo Charity Horse Show

Click on pictures to enlarge and see captions.

By Jane Knoerle

Almanac Lifestyles Editor

This is a big year for Betsy Glikbarg of Atherton. It marks her 40th year as coordinator of the Menlo Charity Horse Show. It is also her 50th wedding anniversary with her husband, Tom.

A reception honoring Ms. Glikbarg for her years of community service will be held 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8, at the home of Susan and Gary Martin in Woodside. A modest woman, Ms. Glikbarg only agreed to the party when she was told it would be a benefit.

Betsy Glikbarg has ridden all her life, but has never shown horses, except as a youngster at camp. However, starting with a little family one-day event 40 years ago, she has steered the Menlo Charity Horse Show to its present six-day format, which has raised millions of dollars for the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The horse show takes place from Tuesday, Aug. 10, through Sunday, Aug. 15, at the Menlo Circus Club, 190 Park Lane in Atherton. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.

The early years

Betsy Glikbarg grew up in San Francisco and attended San Jose State University. As young marrieds, Tom and Betsy Glikbarg moved to Atherton 45 years ago. Betsy became a "career volunteer," while raising three children. (Today, the children -- Ellen, John and Bob -- are grown and she is lucky enough to have eight grandchildren living nearby.)

After moving to Atherton, she kept a horse in her backyard. "I used to ride my horse over to the Circus Club and ride with Lois Spreckels. One day Lois said: 'I want to put on a little horse show at the club. Will you help me?'"

The reason for the one-day show was to raise money for a new roof for the Circus Club horse barn. That first show was so successful that it expanded to two days the following year. On the third year, Ms. Spreckels announced she was going to New York "on a little vacation." Ms. Glikbarg was on her own.

Early on, Ms. Glikbarg asked for help from a few friends: Nan Chapman (a friend since childhood), Nancy Parker, Nancy Robinson, and Jane Yates (all of whom still actively participate). The horse show committee now numbers 150 members.

Through the years, the horse show has evolved from its original format into the current six-day "AA" show, the highest designated rating possible. It has been named "Best in the West" by members of the Pacific Coast Hunter/Jumper Association for more than 15 years.

"When something happens gradually, you don't give it a thought," says Ms. Glikbarg. She credits her years in the Junior League of Palo Alto/Midpeninsula for giving her the organizational skills to chair the show. "They taught me so much," she says.

Betsy Glikbarg sees her job as an administrator. The show has always had a professional horse show manager, Walter T. Haub of San Francisco.

Five years ago, she stood up at a horse show meeting and said: "I'm getting older and getting tired. I need help."

Five people stepped up to the plate to offer their help.

These co-chairs are: Steve Goldenberg, Suzanne Jain, Suzanne Rischman, Wendy Harries, and Linda Salvador. Each takes a different segment of duties.

"My segment has always been (getting) sponsors," says Ms. Glikbarg. "I start begging in January."

This year the show has 92 sponsors, the most ever.

"I'm the organizer, but once the show starts, I'm the cheerleader," says Ms. Glikbarg. She will be there every morning and on hand for the evening festivities. One event she doesn't want to miss is hearing her daughter, Ellen Shea, sing the national anthem at the beginning of the ceremonies.

Does Betsy Glikbarg see heading the horse show committee until, say, its 50th anniversary?

"I will never leave the show," she says, "but I will continue to delegate."

Menlo Charity Horse Show runs through Sunday.

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