Last week’s national convention of the Pinto Horse Association of America attracted more than 200 visitors to Oklahoma City, culminating in an awards banquet Saturday at the Biltmore Hotel.
Meanwhile, June’s World Pinto Horse Show, held in Tulsa since 1985, will draw 25,000 horses and their owners to Oklahoma. Studies show spending with state businesses for the two events translates to about $150,000 and $10 million, respectively. Darrell Bilke, the association’s executive vice president/chief operating officer, realizes the economic development impact of the activities of the association he’s led since 2003. After 30 years participating in, judging at, consulting for and managing horse shows, the events feel more like family reunions to him. "We’re one big happy family,” said Bilke of his 15-member staff and 15,000 members. "I’m very, very fortunate that my job is my recreation. I love it. It’s my golf game.” Just as the American Kennel Club registers dog breeds, the Pinto Horse Association of America, or the PtHA, registers pintos throughout the U.S., Canada and Asia, and horses with two or more pinto characteristics. "We’re scanning these, and about to get out of the file cabinet business," Bilke said, opening the manila folder and thumbing through the show and performance records of a random pinto, one of 130,000 on record.
Official shares experiencesFrom his office at 7330 NW 23, Bilke, 61, recently sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about his personal and professional life. The following is an edited transcript. Q: Tell us about your roots. A: I grew up in Miami, OK, with two sisters, three and 10 years younger. Our mom, who now lives in an assisted-living facility in Midwest City, worked more than 40 years for Ottawa County, as secretary to the county election board and in the county assessor’s office. Our father, who we lost five years ago, was a deputy in the county sheriff’s office and on the side, farmed hay and cattle on about 400 acres that we lease now. I was always around horses. My father roped some and had a few horses that he raced on a local basis. I started in 4-H when I was 9, became active on the judging teams and won a lot of judging contests. I also played a little basketball and football, where I had the opportunity to play with Steve Owens. For college, I attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in Miami, where I was on the livestock judging team. I spent my last two years in Goodwell at Oklahoma Panhandle State University, earning a degree in animal science. Q: How’d you meet your wife? A: We were both working as agents of the Oklahoma State University’s Oklahoma County Extension Service, helping 4-H kids and farmers and ranchers.