The year 2011 marked the 50th Anniversary of the Amwell Valley Hounds, founded originally as the Kingwood Foxhounds, in western central New Jersey. When kennel facilities were moved to the Amwell Valley in 1970, the name change was prompted by the support from and in recognition of local farmers in the valley.
Current Masters are Dr. Ralph Reilly (2006), Joanne Maltese Possumato (2008) and Dr. Brendan Furlong (2009). Importantly, two special members, active with the club since its inception, Mr. W. Bryce Thompson, and Ms. Tiffany Teeter continue as Honorary Masters. Mr. Steven Farrin serves in his 5th year as professional Huntsman.
Highlights of the season were many: Grand Champion Foxhound at the Bryn Mawr Hound Show, June 2nd, was captured by our English Foxhound Amwell Valley Heythrop ’08. Best English Foxhound at the New York Westminster Dog Show was awarded to Ardent, of Amwell descent, owned by Dr. Paula Mann, AVH, member and owner of our kennels. To celebrate the honors of our hounds, a BBQ was hosted at the AVH Kennels for Heythrop and friends, both hounds and hunt members alike, with a special “thank you” to our Huntsman Farrin. Local landowners and the Amwell Valley Hounds Pony Club were also present at the annual AVH Puppy Show, an event which we hold as a friendly intramural competition and where we introduce the youngest juniors to the youngest hounds.
Amwell Valley is known for picturesque country and hunter paces that allow literally hundreds of folks a chance to enjoy this beautiful valley. This season, attendance broke all records and were enjoyed by all because of the efficient management of Brian Skowronek and his crew. We had glorious color and climate. In honor of the AVH 50th Anniversary, an inaugural Triple Crown Series was awarded to the winning team over three paces. These events draw contestants from surrounding states as well as surrounding counties.
Amwell Valley Hounds also hosted the Junior North American Field Hunter Championships with a fine day of hunting and a tailgate afterwards. Several joint meets were scheduled and well attended, with Windy Hollow Hunt and Fairfax Hunt, both in AVH country and away in the respective hosting hunts’ countries. Fairfax Hunt’s newest MFH is Mr. Michael Harper, former huntsman of AVH. Sport was spectacular, and the road trips, parties, and dinners with old friends and new made for some wonderful memories.
Our 50th celebration was hosted during our annual Hunt Ball this past November at Fiddlers Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. During these festivities, past Masters were recognized and honored. We also reveled in orchestral music and dancing, fabulous dinner and spirits, a silent auction to rival none and the enthusiastic whip cracking and horn blowing contest. Commemorative mugs and calendars celebrated the anniversary and were distributed to hunt members and landowners. Further Anniversary celebration continued throughout the Holidays with an elaborate Christmas Party at Barbara and Lydell Christiansen’s, complete with delicious dinner, spirit and camaraderie. In appreciation of our generous landowners, Christmas baskets were delivered to landowners by our Masters during the holiday season.
With a few less hunting days this season due to excessive rain and poor ground conditions, Amwell Valley Hounds prevailed by just throwing more parties! En masse, we even braved the emotional trauma of a viewing of “War Horse” at a local theater. And, for the epicurean among us (and who that hunts is not?) the annual “Best Tailgate Feast” competition allowed more satiation, extending over the entire season.
Our club recognizes current partnerships that nurture land preservation efforts with the D & R Greenway Land Trust, Hunterdon County Parks and Recreation, NJ Conservation Foundation, Amwell Valley Trail Association as well as many privately held farms which have deed restricted conservation easements. The Sowsian Farm, Wielenta Farm, and DuFosse Farms are among those who allow continued hunting through their “Farmland Preserved” properties. AVH also enjoys opening meet and hunting privileges at the Unionville Vineyard and on most farms in the Valley.
At 50 years and going stronger than ever, Amwell Valley Hounds looks forward to the next 50 years of spectacular hunting sport, partnering with landowners and conservancy groups to honor and preserve the stewardship of wild open spaces for generations to come.