Thunderbird Show Park has a history of bringing horses and families together – even as it changes.
George and Dianne Tidball, founders of Tbird 44 years ago, both passed away in 2014 but their legacy lives on and will continue into the future with their family’s enthusiastic support.
George and Dianne were inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2017 for their outstanding contributions, not only to the equestrian community, but also for their business contributions.
Before that, George and Dianne, as well as Tbird, were honoured by the Jump Canada Hall of Fame in the Builder (or organization) category in 2009. Thunderbird was already ranked in the top three equestrian facilities for several years at that point.
It was in 1967 when Dianne convinced George to open the first McDonald’s restaurant outside of the U.S. It’s in Richmond, and one of the chain’s busiest restaurant’s today on No. 3 Road.
Following his foray into the restaurant industry, George opened the first Keg restaurant (then known as the Keg N’ Cleaver) in 1971. Around the same time, the family moved to Langley and established Thunderbird Show Park on 26 acres in 1973.
The Tidballs soon found the equestrian community was outgrowing their 26-acres in Walnut Grove, and in 2000 they established the new Thunderbird Show Park at its current 85-acre location.
Daughter, Jane is the president and tournament director of the park today. She has seen and led a lot of changes, according to the organization’s press officer, Emily Penn.
“Tbird is constantly expanding,” Penn said. “Footing in the hunter and jumper rings, including warm up rings, has been a big focus for the past few years. Last year we built the FEI [International Federation for Equestrian Sports] stabling.”
Expansion isn’t anything new at Thunderbird. The park is ever-changing and improving based on competitor feedback and information gained in the horse-world about what is new and beneficial.
While the competition rings and indoor arenas were built when Dianne re-visioned Tbird at the new location, in the past 17 years the equestrian destination has hardly stood still.
“The Timber frame, where VIP and grand prix riders can go was a big addition,” Penn noted. “This offers ringside seating over the grand prix ring.”
The additions made have always been with a focus to improving the competitor experience along with that of the spectators. Dianne was determined to make horse events accessible for everyone to watch and enjoy which is the same belief her daughter, Jane, holds today.
Jane and her siblings share ownership of Tbird and stay focused on the continual improvement their parents valued.
Each year involves a lengthy wish list for capital improvements and a number of them come to fruition to the delight and comfort of the show park’s visitors.
• See related story about the Tidball’s recent induction into the sports hall of fame
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