Thursday, October 4, 2012

New thing #49: Celebration of the Horse, sort of

We don't celebrate horses much at our house. The main reason is that The Girl is highly allergic to them, a fact we discovered right after we plopped her on top of one as a child (followed by another new experience, breathing treatments). I also had a less than stellar experience with a tired old mare at Camp Wyomoco when I was twelve. I never could find the right horseback riding rhythm, so I spent the whole week as a human paddleball. But since the tiny town of Metamora, MI was hosting their annual Celebration of the Horse, and we've never done more than drive through Metamora before, it seemed like a good time for us (minus The Girl) to give horses another try. 

Why the long face?
I checked the schedule events for this one-day celebration,    which kicked off with a pancake breakfast at 7 am and wrapped up after a concert finished around 7 pm. We had a busy day at home, so we planned to head over in the late afternoon. We arrived shortly before 5 pm and were thrilled to find a prime parking spot right in front of festival ground zero, the park where most of the events were being held. They had the usual craft vendors, food booths and not-for-profits, but what made it special was the minature pony rides and half a dozen beautiful horses in temporary pens. We spent a great few minutes with each of the horses, going right up and petting them and mostly avoiding all sorts of horse slobber. As we bid the last one goodbye we noticed that they were starting to tear down the horse pens. In fact, all the booths were coming down. In a matter of minutes, the only thing left standing was the gazebo where the band had just started playing, and by the time they were half way through their first set you wouldn't even know there had been a festival in the park. The whole town and all the horses had rolled up the sidewalk and disappeared. Even the grass had fluffed back into place. Some celebration this turned out to be.

But the evening was not a total loss. Just across the parking lot sat the historical White Horse Inn, the self-proclaimed home of the best burger in Mid-Michigan. We decided to go grab some dinner and went inside. There we found the entire population of Metamora (approximately 30 people) already eating dinner, so we relaxed at the bar while waiting for a table to become available.

The White Horse Inn opened in 1850 as a stagecoach stop, and is the oldest continually-operating restaurant in Michigan. It was a stop on the Underground Railroad and later received a franchise to feed and house overnight passengers of the Michigan Central Railway. They survived and prospered during Prohibition by promoting "breakfast specials", and later added an upstairs tea room, winter sleigh ride/dinner packages, cooking classes and ghost hunts. Legend has it that the Inn is haunted by a ghost named Lorenzo, the original owner. 

The building is really neat. The ceilings are low and the hardwood floors undulate under your feet. It's tavern decor, with wood paneling, small tables, and plenty of kitsch hanging in the bar. We only had to wait about 30 minutes before our table was ready. Many of the current menu items are based on original recipes from the late 1800's. Ordering was a bit of a challenge because our waitress was hard of hearing, requiring everyone in our section to repeat their menu choices loudly. This would come in really handy if you are one of those people that scans the plates of your fellow diners to see what looks good. We tried the 'best' burger and the famous all-you-can-eat fish fry. The food is surprisingly upscale in taste without the usual matching upscale price, and everything we had was fantastic. The portions were generous but we still managed to share some dessert before sliding into a food coma.  (Updated to add that sadly, the White Horse Inn closed without notice about a month after we visited there.  I swear we had nothing to do with it).  ((Updated again - new owners!  Yay!))

Metamora is a quaint, pretty little town nestled in rolling hills. It's a nice place to stop by on your way to somewhere else. You can get a terrific meal there. But if you want to celebrate horses, you'd better get there early.


  1. Hello there! I'm the Executive Director of Metamora Celebration of the Horse Ltd., and I'd like to invite you to see our website ( before it comes down, as well as our Facebook page Metamora Celebration of the Horse. So sorry you missed the entire day - there were interactive lectures at the Historic Town Hall; two other musical acts on the Stage; a dressage demonstration and a Clydesdale show in the Round Pen and other activities for kids and adults alike throughout the town. You missed the face painting and the root beer floats (all Michigan products) as well as the pig roast. Let's not forget the parade and Carz 108.
    Do come on time next year! September 28.
    PS -- We had over a dozen breeds including American Mustangs AND the new 2013 Ford Mustangs too. :-)

  2. So sad to hear that the White Horse Inn has closed. Best of luck to the owners in their new endeavors.