CROWN POINT | When Clarafay Ray’s parents named her after a character in one of her dad’s favorite western movies, they had no way of knowing that at age 2 the Crown Point girl’s first claim to fame would involve riding a horse.
Clarafay is one of 28 Midwest children featured in an upcoming Meijer television commercial, all riding the store’s iconic mechanical penny pony Sandy. The featured photo, taken by Clarafay’s mother, Danielle Ray, was chosen from among more than 3,000 pictures submitted through Meijer’s "Star with Sandy" Facebook contest.
The winning photos showcase children from all five states that Meijer serves: Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.
Clarafay lives with her family on a “good old-fashioned” Crown Point farm, her mom said.
“She helps me milk goats and helps gather eggs and do chores,” Danielle said. “She is a good little helper.”
In her photo Clarafay is wearing a frilly dress.
“If it doesn’t have ruffles, it doesn’t exist,” Danielle said. “She will even wear her ruffles in the mud puddle. She’s fun,”
Danielle said the family shops at Meijer every other week.
“It’s the only grocery store we go to,” Danielle Ray said. “We can’t leave without her riding the horse. It’s a requirement of going to the store.”
Clarafay’s older siblings are getting too big to ride Sandy.
“She likes to rub that in a little bit,” Danielle said. “She is a character. Talking to her is like having a conversation with a very silly grownup.”
Danielle Ray saw the ‘Star with Sandy’ contest on the Meijer Facebook page, which she frequents for grocery coupons.
The family received a link to watch the commercial.
“It’s fun,” Danielle said. “My mom was just beside herself. She was so excited.”
The 30-second commercial is airing this month. A 60-second version is currently online now. Meijer shoppers can also watch the ad on TV walls in the store’s electronics department.
“For decades, a ride on Sandy has been a very important part of that Meijer experience for millions of families,” said Nicole Laughlin, vice president of brand development for Meijer. “That’s something we’re incredibly proud of.”
Sandy debuted at the opening of Thrifty Acres in 1962. The late Fred Meijer was inspired by a supermarket in Nebraska that offered 10-cent pony rides but wanted to provide a more reasonable option.
“My dad believed in making things affordable for our customers and that included Sandy,” Meijer Co-Chairman Hank Meijer said. “Riding Sandy is a memory shared by so many children and parents who shop at our stores. But the real magic happens when those children grow up and bring their own kids back for a ride.”
Meijer is a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer that operates 207 supercenters and grocery stores including locations in Dyer, Merrillville, Highland, Portage and Michigan City.
Clarafay also won $100 in the contest.
“I am buying her a new ruffley dress and we will go out for pizza,” Danielle said.