Back in the saddle

DORSET - Those who have traveled along Route 7A through Dorset may have noticed the familiar blue and white striped tents on the Beebe Farm - an indicator that the Vermont Summer Festival is not far away.

Next Tuesday, the Vermont Summer Festival - which will take place until Aug. 10 - will return for its 21st year on the Beebe Farm with equestrians and spectators alike flocking to the region the region.

While specific numbers concerning the number of participants were not available as of press time, Marketing Director for the Vermont Summer Festival Ruth Lacey expected this year to be comparable to previous ones.

"We expect to have a strong show. It will probably be very similar to prior years, but we don't have any specific numbers," said Lacey. "We put 1,200 stalls up. We hope to fill them. A full horse show is usually about 1,000 horses because people use stalls for tack and various things we hope to meet those levels again and those 1,000 horses probably translate anywhere to like 3,000 people into the community."

Typically the event sees somewhere between somewhere between 500-700 spectators a week, Lacey said.

"We would love to have more, but it makes it a more dynamic environment for the athletes," said Lacey. "An audience is sort of fun. So, we always encourage people [to come.] One of the challenges for us is to get the message out that it isn't a private affair. The community is welcome to come out."

This year all the gate proceeds will be donated to area libraries - an effort that will be spearheaded by the Mark Skinner Library in Manchester. One new aspect to the Vermont Summer festival this year is the inclusion of the 3' 3" Junior Hunter Division.

"It's just one of the Hunter Divisions at a height that's become very popular and so that was in response to our clients," said Lacey. "They want to jump at that level in the Hunter arenas so we added it."

Although she was not entirely sure, Lacey said she believed part of the reason that the division was added as well was because the United States Equestrian Federation is now recognizing it.

Over $750,000 in prize money will be given out over the course of the six week festival with the largest purse being up for grabs during the latest Grand Prix event on the final Saturday of competition. The $50,000 purse will be split between the top 12 riders in that particular class, Lacey said.

As for the attraction to the Vermont Summer Festival, Lacey said that it's different for each competitior.

"There's definitely the professionals who are looking for prize money and a great showing experience, but what I think sets the Vermont Summer Festival apart from a lot of other shows in different locations is that great combination of a first class horse show coupled with a community that's a nice place to be for a while and because our series is six weeks long people do tend to sort of settle in [and] make a bit of a vacation out of it," Lacey said. "Those are all really important things and it's just that nice balance of equality, equestrian competition, plus a beautiful welcoming community."


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