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Daughters gallop in mom's footsteps

When the Odessa Drill Team was founded five years ago, the goal was to provide family fun and display patriotism.

Dianna Harvey and her two daughters, Dee Dee, 13, and Dawn, 15, of Shady Hills are furthering the goal.

The family participates in the voluntary organization, which performs the opening ceremonies for about 10 in-state rodeos a year. First, while riding their horses, the group honors the American flag. In the second half of the presentation, it honors the sponsors. Most recently, the drill team paraded some of their best animal friends in the annual Hernando County Cattlemen's Association Rodeo on Saturday and Sunday.

Blurry figures wearing red pants, white shirts and blue vests with white stars race around the arena. Swerving around each other and gliding through the arena, the drill team completes its formations with American flags. Soon after the 10-minute program, the members and several additional riders trot into the ring. This time they are displaying sponsor flags.

Dee Dee chases after the leader as she carries the Florida flag on her white horse. Dawn helps bring up the rear with one of the sponsor flags.

The sight pleases Dianna Harvey as she maneuvers her steed through the formations. But one day she hopes to also ride with her daughters while honoring the American flag.

The two teenagers said they have wanted to participate in the 13-member drill team since their mother joined two years ago. Only in the past year have they been able get into the ring.

It seemed like the natural thing to do, they said.

"I always remember having horses," Dee Dee said. "I want to ride with the group for the rest of my life. I like the audience too."

Dawn agreed.

"I go riding all the time after school. It's fun," she said.

Dianna Harvey is an active member of the organization, while Dee Dee and Dawn can't always participate because they aren't 18. Instead, they ride in the second portion if there are more sponsors than drill team riders.

Dianna Harvey said Dee Dee and Dawn get more out of their participation than fanfare and riding practice. She said it teaches them responsibility because their seriousness about practicing can determine how the group will look as a whole. It is also a chance to spend time with the family doing something everyone enjoys.

Both teens say they can't wait to ride while honoring the American flag.

"They want to do it," Dianna Harvey said. "And I'd like to see them in it."

Group leader Cheryl Minardi thinks that's a great idea. Promoting the family and patriotism are the purpose.

"To me it's an honor to carry the American flag," Minardi said. "To participate in the patriotism. It's a unique feeling."