‘A good time was had by all’
Crundwell’s birthday a ‘premier’ industry event
DIXON – Rita Crundwell’s 2010 birthday bash was a “premier” event in the quarter horse industry.
That’s according to a January 2010 story that appeared on gohorseshow.com that said industry leaders traveled from around the country to Venice, Fla., “just to attend the party.” As many as 200 attended.
The host? Crundwell’s boyfriend, Jim McKillips, who treated partygoers to an “outstanding buffet” of jumbo shrimp cocktail, prime rib and coconut shrimp. An “island-style” band entertained.
“One thing was for sure – a good time was had by all,” the story said. “Rita was gorgeous as always in one of her ‘must have’ coats. Where does she find these items?”
Crundwell, who is accused of stealing $30 million from the city of Dixon as its comptroller, posed for a photo with the story’s writer, Dakota Diamond Griffith, who is a quarter horse competitor herself. In it, Crundwell appears to be wearing a fur coat.
Griffith reported that Crundwell planned to host an exhibitor’s party a few days later.
After Crundwell’s arrest, an anonymous poster commented on the gohorseshow.com story: “Thanks, Dixon. As an exhibitor who attended a couple of Rita’s birthday parties in Venice, I would like to personally thank the hard-working people of Dixon, Ill., for the coconut shrimp. It was exceptional.”
A half-dozen coconut shrimp goes for $18, according to the restaurant’s website.
“She’s a very nice lady,” Griffith said in a phone interview Thursday. “She always tried to help everybody. She always has a smile on her face.”
Griffith, who lives in Ohio, said Crundwell could “clean up pretty nice” for such parties. But when she got down to her work with horses, she would put on a cap and jeans just like everyone else.
“She was very hands-on,” Griffith said.
She said the 2010 party was fun but she is saddened by what happened.
“My concern is for the town of Dixon,” she said.
McKillips is manager of the Meri-J Ranch in Beloit, Wis., where Crundwell keeps most of her horses.
He hasn’t returned calls for comment.