Race to the Raid: On The Road With Dawn and Clea’s Panty Raid Futurity

On The Road With Dawn and Clea's Panty Raid barrel race has evolved into one the best races east of the Mississippi.

Photographs Courtesy On The Road With Dawn And Clea

On The Road With Dawn and Clea's Panty Raid barrel race has evolved into one the best races east of the Mississippi.

For a decade the Panty Raid Futurity has drawn barrel racers from far and wide for fun, fast times and a hearty dose of entertainment. On The Road With Dawn And Clea’s spring roadshow returns to Champion Center in Springfield, Ohio, April 14-17, and, as with all their productions, Dawn Shirey and Clea Remington have worked and planned to make the ninth Panty Raid barrel race a memorable one.

Watch the Panty Raid Live on BarrelRacing.com!

Changing the Game

“We actually started doing the Panty Raid in 2013 to have a little race before Best of the Best, our big show,” said Dawn. “We enjoyed doing Best of the Best so we thought doing a little spring show would be a good way for people to get out, and low and behold, each year it just grew. The largest was in 2016—we ran for 24 hours around the clock. We sold something like 980 stalls. We started at 8 am and ran until 8 the next morning, we nearly did everyone in with that one!”

The impetus behind that first small show was that Dawn and Clea thought if they could just get 200 people to come out and participate, they’d invest the profits back in to their Best of the Best show to make it even better. The Panty Raid exceeded those expectations and is now known beyond their region as one of the must-attend destination races of the season.

“At one point the Panty Raid became bigger than Best of the Best, that was in 2016, but then we backed off a little because everyone was so exhausted afterwards from running literally all day and all night,” exclaimed Dawn. “This year we’ve sold 580 stalls with more on the waiting list. We are anticipating around 450 in the open and people are still able to enter.”

Dawn and Clea never limit entries, which is sometimes a curse rather than a blessing—“especially if your tractor drivers are sleeping in the arena,” she said.

During the Panty Raid, Dawn says her time is consumed with running the show office while Clea’s attention is focused on maintaining safe and fair ground conditions.

“We have had crew come and go for various reasons and with every new change we have learned good lessons. Life is all about making the best of everything, helping anyone you can when you can and love the people who love you,” Dawn said. “We still chuckle about the day we sat down with Connie Vansickle in Columbus to talk about this ‘little spring show.’ Bruce and Connie Vansickle have been with us since the beginning. Bruce is with Clea doing the ground and Connie is in the office with me.

“We have the best help with our current team of people. They chug right along with us. Some of the same faces from past shows and some new ones. Anywhere from announcing to barrel setting to office help. They do it all! We are small, but we are mighty! A shout out to all of them for being by our side. Clea works on maintaining safe ground conditions and heading up the chef’s position for all the food that is made for the crew, and in the past the contestants, and I do the office. We both make the decisions when needed and love what we do,” she said. 

Panty Raid Futurity producers Clea and Dawn.

The Panty Raid has evolved for the past 10 years to be tops in its region. The race attracts entries from surrounding states including Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, and Michigan.

“At the height of our biggest Panty Raid we’ve had as many as 25 states represented at our show with barrel racers coming from New York, Iowa, Wisconsin, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, many, many places,” said Clea. “In the barrel world there have not always been big races east of the Mississippi, but now there are so many arenas and races popping up. It’s flattering for us to have people follow the pattern of some of the races we’ve done. We try to follow what works and think of new, fun things in the process. With the Panty Raid and Best of the Best, those shows have changed the barrel racing game for everybody in our part of the country.”

What About That Name?

Why “Panty Raid” you ask? Many people wonder where the name came from, but there is actually a straightforward explanation behind the race’s unconventional title.

“Clea is a very creative person, and we just play off each other,” said Dawn. “So, Famous Silk Panties was the top dog horse at that time and the race is that mare’s namesake. Heath Boucher is a friend of ours and he sponsored the futurity. Clea and Heath came up with a bunch of different ideas, and I definitely nixed a few of them! But Heath said if we called it the Panty Raid, he would sponsor so Heath and Clea masterminded that name and we all three agreed.”

What’s in a Name? The Panty Raid’s name pays homage to the great performer and producer Famous Silk Panties. The 2006 sorrel mare by Dash Ta Fame and out of Martinis And Bikinis by Bully Bullion earned $240,000-plus when she was campaigned by Lance Graves to such epic wins as the Barrel Futurities of America Slot Race title. Famous Silk Panties went on to produce offspring with earnings of well over $150,000 including SR Godiva, The Kandyman, Silk N Firewater, Size Three Bikini, and SR Schill Be Commando.

Beyond the Panty Raid’s link to futurity sensation Famous Silk Panties, Dawn and Clea are proud of their role as longstanding BFA producers.

“We’ve had a BFA sanctioned futurity every year that adds $5,000 this year, plus we have a 5-year-old 2D futurity and a 5/6-year-old derby. It’s important to give people the options. We’ve also got a slot race that’s a Best of the Best qualifier, and our IBRA Open adds $5,000. It’s the first race of the year for our region. We expect to get past the 400-mark in entries at our bigger shows in the divisional and normally anywhere from 60 to 120 in the futurity depending on the year and what all is going on.”

Entertaining Extras

On The Road With Dawn And Clea is indeed a roadshow community where the participants enjoy much more than barrel racing when they attend.

“Some of the fun extras we have add entertainment value for the people who come, but I think our favorite might be the pee wee and youth slot races. People love them, and so do we. Those kids are full-on ready to win, it’s great,” said Dawn.

Dawn and Clea celebrating 10 years of Best of the Best in 2021.

Other fun extracurricular activities planned for the upcoming Panty Raid include Easter festivities for the kids with candy baskets, face painting, and depending upon the weather, possibly an egg hunt.

“People like to come out and have a great time,” said Dawn. “There’s a saying about this race that it’s a party and they have a barrel race with it! In fact, we used to feed everyone. COVID and some of the facilities put a damper on the cooking but we used to cook for 300 to 400 people just as a thank you for coming. And it was full-on meals. We have had live bands, we decorate. We figure people are spending the money and making a point to be there, we want it to be a great time and fun atmosphere. We have modified some things, but one thing that’s never changed is we want everyone to come and enjoy the weekend.” 

Dawn says she and Clea’s races are about more than competition with great gratification coming from getting everyone together on a level playing field.

“We both equally enjoy doing the races and our entire crew is inspired to make them run smooth. We’re 100 percent fine with reserving 500 stalls and having everything run well,” said Dawn. “We run 50 to 55 an hour and people know they can expect fair treatment, we’re very fair. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 1D rider or 5D rider, everyone gets treated the same. We don’t favor anyone. Each year we try to bring something new in. Todd Adair, our announcer, he really engages the crowd. Every little detail to make it fun for the people who are there and seeing everyone is what it’s all about. We love helping, that’s what we’re here for after all.”

Known for working hard, Dawn and Clea also take a little break from the stress of putting on races and invite their entire crew to join them on their seasonal vacation as gesture of appreciation.

“We’ve taken our crew to Key West, Florida, every year and at one time there were as many as 19 of us that went,” said Clea. “We go for four days in February and even though we’ve mellowed a bit over the years, we have a great time. We have a really good crew. People are up all hours, day and night taking care of everything that needs done.”

Most barrel racing producers understand that the demands of putting on shows don’t end once the last horse runs, but require year-round preparation. Apart from the races, Dawn and Clea are also motivated businesswomen with a medical billing business and rental properties, plus Clea heads up running their horse farm where they raise, train, and sell barrel racing prospects.

“We have a barn full of horses, and we both actively compete. We’ll have three big shows this year and run at our shows, which sometimes we wonder why we do that,” laughed Dawn. “The races are not our living but producing them is our passion.”