SIDNEY — Halee Cummings’ father said this year’s barrel race honoring his daughter was even more emotional than last year. And he said she would have been even harder on his performance in the arena.

Hardy Cummings nearly fell off his horse, Cactus, near the second barrel during the final day of the Halee Lyn Cummings Memorial Barrel Race at the Silver Spur Riding Club in Sidney.

“I would’ve caught hell for that one, that’s for sure,” he said.

Halee, 18, died in September 2015 in an all-terrain vehicle crash that left her family crushed. Her mother said she’s still in denial.

“I don’t have any emotion because I just ignore the whole thing,” Jami Paquette said. “We’ve done so much that we haven’t had a lot of time to think about (it). But everybody keeps telling me I ought to get therapy for this.”

Sunday’s start was delayed by an hour because heavy rains late Saturday required extra maintenance work on the arena floor the next morning. When it was time to go, riders were led out of the holding area during the opening ceremony by Cummings, carrying a special flag honoring his daughter. He was accompanied by Harmony Renaud, a close friend of Halee’s, carrying an American flag.

Cummings said the opening ceremony and carrying Halee’s flag is always the hardest part. “To carry that flag and see everybody out there supporting her, it’s tough,” he said.

There were almost 150 riders and about 75 campers, which doubled and tripled last year’s numbers, respectively. Paquette said they had $8,500 in prize money this year – up $2,000 from last year – and hope to have $10,000 for next year’s event. The three-day event included a pig roast Friday, racing and live music Saturday, and a final day of racing Sunday, all for prizes including cash and belt buckles.

Hardy Cummings said the event has grown so much since last year that it’s tougher to handle because he can see how many people Halee touched in such a short time.

“It’s an overwhelming feeling, honestly,” Cummings said. “We’re just trying to keep her legacy going.”

Cummings crossed the finish line with an unofficial time of 24.814, but he didn’t receive a score because he was nearly thrown from the horse and had to veer off course to stay aboard. He said he’s only had the horse for about three weeks and didn’t pull the reins at the right time, something Halee would have criticized him for immediately.

Paquette, the event’s main organizer, fared better than she did last year, when she didn’t receive a time because she knocked over one of the three barrels. On Sunday, she crossed the line in 16.728 seconds.

“This is the kind of event (Halee and I) talked about having if we were ever going to have a show. We have people coming from out of the woodwork to support us and remember Halee.”

Halee graduated a year early from Messalonskee High School in 2014 and was enrolled at the University of Maine at Augusta. She was in her sophomore year, and was thinking about entering the nursing program.

Alexander J. Biddle was charged with manslaughter in October in connection with the crash that killed Halee not far from her home off Middle Road.

Jason Pafundi can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

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