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Barrel racing event honors Saginaw woman

Krissy Clemens built KC Arena after her daughter died from a drug overdose.

A hat sits on the fence at KC Arena in Saginaw. Krissy Clemens built the arena in memory of her daughter, Kaley Summer Cooke.
Contributed / KC Arena
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SAGINAW — When Krissy Clemens' daughter, Kaley Summer Cooke, died at age 21 from a drug overdose, she knew she wanted to do something to honor her daughter.

The Saginaw woman decided to build a horse arena and name it after Kaley, who died in 2014. KC Arena now hosts several barrel racing events each year, and will host its 8th Annual Memorial Run in remembrance of Kaley on Friday, Aug. 26, and Saturday, Aug. 27. Clemens also recently received 501(c)3 nonprofit status and said she hopes to host sessions for veterans and at-risk youth to work with horses.

Kaley rode horses from the time she was a little girl, and she enjoyed barrel racing, Clemens said. The event offers people who knew Kaley the chance to get together to remember her and to participate in the sport she loved.

"I just want people to get together and realize it wasn't the way to go," Clemens said.

The part of the event Clemens looks forward to most every year is when it starts. As the national anthem is played during the opening ceremony, a saddled horse is walked through the arena with Kaley's boots in its stirrups.


"It's just a quick remembrance of why we're all here," Clemens said.

Haley Psyck grew up riding horses with Kaley and has attended the memorial event every year. She said the opening ceremony is one of her favorite moments, too.

Psyck described Kaley as a caring, helpful person.

"She just had the best advice," Psyck said. "If a kid had trouble with a horse going in the arena, she would get off her horse and go help them."

Over the years, the event has grown in popularity. Psyck said she remembers 20-30 people participating when Clemens first started it. This weekend, Clemens expects 50-75 people to compete Friday, and she said she hopes 100 people race on Saturday.

"It started out smaller and then more people started coming as the arena kept getting used. It's a great arena in everyone’s backyard," Psyck said. "… The last three years it just grew. There are hundreds of people coming now."

Clemens has five belt buckles to award for timed events as well as pole bending. In addition to belt buckles, cash prizes are also available. The event will also feature a National Barrel Horse Association MN-06 race.

Members of the public are invited to attend. Visit the KC Arena Facebook page for more information.

Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten is the regional editor for Duluth Media Group, overseeing the Cloquet Pine Journal and the Superior Telegram.
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