GREENFIELD – Toni Harpster and Chris Bruno took a moment to discuss their outfits for Denim and Diamonds — blue jeans and a vest for Harpster, a denim dress and a jacket for Bruno.

The dinner and auction event, scheduled for Jan. 28 at the Blu Falls Arts & Event Center in Pendleton, is definitely a casual affair.

“Put on your best blue jeans and throw on your diamonds and come on out,” Bruno said.

But if you don’t have diamonds, “we’ll take cubic zirconium,” joked Harpster, “or … anything that sparkles.”

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This weekend marks the seventh year Denim and Diamonds will serve as Edelweiss Equine-Assisted Therapy’s largest fundraiser.

Since 2004, the therapy center, 531 W. County Road 100S, has provided horseback riding therapy to children and adults with special needs. It operates a 10-horse stable from May through mid-October and offers weekly programs in therapeutic horseback riding and carriage driving to more than 40 participants.

Many of horses come from Starting Gait, a program that transitions retired raced horses into alternate careers, said Bethann Kropacek, program director for Edelweiss. The center pays about $300 a month per horse for food, shelter and vet care. The funds raised from Denim and Diamonds will go toward general operating expenses.

The evening of denim and diamonds begins at 5:30 p.m. when the doors open, followed by a sit-down dinner of soup, chicken, a vegetable medley and a variety of desserts at 7 p.m. The event features music, a live auction, games, a 50-50 raffle and a silent auction running throughout the evening.

More than 80 gift baskets are up for bidding during the silent auction, and the live auction features some big-ticket items such as a 14-carat gold diamond star pendant, a seven-day cruise for two to the Caribbean or Mexico and a Kentucky Derby package.

The event also features a wine pull, which invites attendees to pay to pull a random number that matches a bottle of wine. Bottles from an assortment of wineries have been donated, but the bottles are decorated with flowers, hidden in gift bags or dressed in denim and cowboy hats to disguise their brand. Participants don’t know what they’re getting until they have bottle in hand.

Local businessman Kurt Vetters returns as this year’s emcee; he was asked to emcee the 2016 event and from that point on has been an advocate for the horse therapy center.

Vetters has a close friend whose child has special needs and receives services from Edelweiss. Vetters has watched him grow up.

“That child had no control over very much of his life,” Vetters said, “but he could get on the back of a horse and control something.”

Vetters, a retired Army cavalry officer, is also working to bring back veterans’ programs to Edelweiss, which has over the years offered horseback therapy to those suffering from PTSD.

Vetters is looking forward to another opportunity to help out the cause he supports. He’ll be decked out in his black cowboy hat, a cowboy shirt and a borrowed full-length duster for an authentic western look.

Organizers are hoping for a large crowd at the Jan. 28 event.

“And if you don’t have diamonds,” said Harpster, “there’s a beautiful diamond necklace in the auction.”

If you go

What:  Denim & Diamonds fundraiser for Edelweiss Equine-Assisted Horse Therapy Center

When: Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 28

Where: Blu Falls Arts & Event Center, 8820 S. State Road 9, Pendleton

Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at

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Christine Schaefer is arts editor and editorial assistant at the Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3222 or