The crisp autumn morning of Saturday Sept. 28 welcomed a blanket of mist, a crowd of bystanders and the 137th Genesee Valley Hunt season to Main Street. The Genesee Valley Hunt parade is an annual kick-off event for the formal foxhunting season in Geneseo. The procession is a spectacle of well-bred hounds and horses and traditional hunting dress, marching down Main Street in the early hours of the morning once each fall.
It also commemorates the rich fox hunting traditions embedded in Geneseo's local culture since the 19th century. The Genesee Valley Hunt is an organization that facilitates foxhunting events for the Geneseo community. Members go hunting three to four times per week and begin hunting at the age of six or seven.
These hunts are meant to “scare and not kill” the valley's fox population, according to Genesee Valley Hunt President W. Austin Wadsworth, who has been involved with the Hunt for over 70 years.
Wadsworth's grandfather, also W. Austin Wadsworth, founded the Hunt in 1876 and served as hunt master from 1878 to 1917. The master has a final say on all decisions while the group is on hunting trips and sets an example for other hunt members.
The hunt is an invigorating experience in horseback riding, according to Wadsworth, one of the many reasons that the tradition has survived for over a century in Geneseo.
“There are obstacles out there. There are natural things like ditches, gullies [and] hills to go up and down. It's challenging to your horsemanship, but there are ways to get around it. It's a little like skiing in that regard. You can challenge yourself as much as you want,” Wadsworth said.
“It's really just the fun of going places you've never been before and doing things you might never have cared to do. You get very excited while you're doing it, and you get tired along with the chase,” he added.
Alongside its regular hunting activities, the Genesee Valley Hunt organizes a gamut of annual races. The organization hosts fun events like wiener dog races as well as advanced steeplechase and traditional horse races.
Wadworth said that the races are a peaceful, charming environment for spending time with family and friends.
“It's really like a day on the Irish countryside,” he said.
The Genesee Valley Hunt will host its upcoming races on Oct. 12.