by Lorna Rae Dever
Tryon, North Carolina
from Harmon Foundation: 1927
From I-26, exit #97, head west on NC 108 towards Tryon approximately two
miles. Harmon Field Road veers to the right off of NC 108.
The Field takes up most of the north side of Harmon Field Road.
Log cabin, screened picnic shed, covered picnic tables, three
little league baseball fields, three soccer fields, four tennis courts,
basketball courts, three equestrian rings, 125 horse stalls, nearly two
miles of paved walking trails, putting green, tetherball, horseshoes,
children’s playground, two bathroom buildings.
Equestrian, baseball, soccer, tennis events – check the
calendars at either harmonfield.com or brhja.com for these events.
Heritage Days – Third weekend of March. This event includes Civil War
reenactors along with period crafters. Fabulous Fourth Bicycle Tour –
Fourth of July, rain or shine (fabulous4thbiketour.org). Tour de Leaves
Bicycle Tour – Third Saturday in October, rain or shine (tourdeleaves.com).
The Town of Tryon received money from the Harmon Foundation in 1927 to help get their fledgling recreational facility started.
Harmon Field is owned by the Town of Tryon, supported by taxes from those who own property in Tryon Township. The Harmon Field Commission operates and maintains Harmon Field in Tryon. The Commission has a self-perpetuating board of three members. Should a vacancy occur on the board, the remaining members make an appointment to fill it. Board members serve without compensation.
Though the field is situated in Tryon Township, it is used by people from all over Polk County, as participants or spectators, and brings enjoyment to the throngs which gather there.
In 1918, Carter P. Brown, who owned and managed the Castle Park Hotel in Michigan, visited Tryon while looking for a new resort property to develop. He introduced fox hunting, and created a fine athletic and show facility at Harmon Field. He also established the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club in 1925.
Horseback riding was a family sport. The Tryon Horse and Hound Show, forerunner of the present Tryon Horse Show, is the oldest of many sporting events sponsored by the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club. Initially, it was mostly a local show, conducted on a Wednesday. The entries were entirely from the Tryon area. One of the most popular classes was the family group exhibiting their own horses or horses from Tryon Stables. The Horse Show was the gala event of the Tryon spring. The lure of horses, hounds and, especially the barbecue feast served free to all the landowners who supported foxhunting, brought out the entire county. Schools let out and businesses closed. Tryon Riding & Hunt Club colors flew all up and down Trade Street. The Boy Scouts directed traffic, and the Girl Scouts sold programs. It was an event where you could see everybody you knew unless you got too interested in watching the horses.
The most prestigious event in the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club's annual program is the Steeplechase Race held each spring on the grounds of the historic Block House. The first Steeplechase, started by Carter P. Brown, was held at Harmon Field and was a single race with a tin cup as the prize for the winner.
Mollie Pritchard, a local land owner, traced her ancestry back to the first owners of the land. She was three quarters Cherokee. Mollie was well known in Tryon, but more often by the names “Millie” or “Granny” Pritchard. The railroad ran just behind her cabin, and the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club often ran just in front of it. For allowing the fox hunters to cross her land, Mollie and her grandchildren rated a ride in the oxcart and an invitation to the annual hunt barbecue at Harmon Field. She and all the mountain people regarded the barbecue as a settled institution, which not even war must interrupt.
“In the early '30s someone had the idea of having a tilting (jousting) tournament at Harmon Field where brave knights in costume tried to spear rings hanging from a support while galloping full speed around the course. It developed into an elaborate mock medieval pageant, featuring a King and Queen with a court of beautiful ladies who rode sidesaddle around the ring to their places in the court. The costumes, all created locally, were so gorgeous and the entertainment so unusual that Paramount Movies, Inc., took newsreels of our spectacular and it was shown in movie theaters all over the country. Margaret Culkin Banning and Ralph Erskine were Queen and King in 1934.” - Elizabeth Doubleday Frost. Polk County, North Carolina History; pg. 80. Polk County Historical Association, Inc.; 1983; The Reprint Company Publishers, Spartanburg, SC.
Dairy goat shows were held at Harmon Field, and Mrs. Carl Sandburg, of Flat Rock, would bring her goats to the shows. She was an inspiration to many people to have their own goats to get milk for their family.
About 1940, the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club gave Tryon township additional land adjoining Harmon Field. It includes a picnic area, ball field, tennis courts, exhibit and horse show facilities.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Polk County Fair, Inc., headed by Hubert McEntyre, sponsored a fair in the horse stalls at Harmon Field.
In 1956, the United States Olympic Equestrian team practiced at Harmon Field. The United States was represented by eight men and ten horses chosen after a yearlong competition. Five members of the team were civilians and three others, including Frank Chapot, the youngest rider, were on detached service from the Armed Forces. Managing the team was Brig. Gen. John Tupper Cole, one of the mainstays of the United States team when the US still had a cavalry.
In May 1959, the Tryon Boosters Club undertook the raising of funds for athletic equipment so that a full-time summer recreation program for young people could be started at Harmon Field. The program, technically administered by Tryon school officials, was directed by the athletics coach, and all Polk County youngsters were welcome to participate.
Other improvements through the years have included show ring and jumps, two new stables, lighted baseball fields, picnic sheds and tables, concession stand, four all-weather lighted tennis courts, lighted football field, stand and track.
Through the years, the field has been used for horse and dog shows, family reunions, gatherings of all kinds, calf shows, goat shows, softball games, and Little League games, and Tryon High School used it for its baseball, football, track and tennis events. A recreation program was conducted there in the summers.
Do you know about a Harmon Field some place?
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