Vermont Summer Festival horse show canceled for 2020

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EAST DORSET — The shoe that most everybody expected to drop for the past two months came crashing down along with any hopes left the Vermont Summer Festival would fill the area's economic void this summer.

The Vermont Summer Festival, which had been held at the Harold Beebe Farm in East Dorset for nearly three decades, canceled its June 30 to Aug. 9 show with a press release May 22 listing "current conditions and state restrictions," as the reason for the cancelation.

Festival spokesperson Brett Waters said that although their press release and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott's announcement canceling all fairs and festivals in the state for the rest of the summer both came on Friday, they were not related.

The real reason for the cancellation, Waters said on Saturday in a telephone call from Florida, was the state could not say if the required 14-day mandatory quarantine on visitors from outside Vermont would be lifted by the time the show kicked off at the end of June.

The rule is that anybody from outside of Vermont would have to quarantine for 14 days in Vermont before they could compete, making it impossible for most exhibitors to be able to come into Vermont for the show.

"Our biggest problem was people couldn't come in from out of state without quarantining for 14 days," Waters said. "They couldn't guarantee us it would be lifted by the time the show started."

Waters said longtime owner and manager of the Vermont Summer Festival, John Ammerman talked to state officials earlier in the week and they couldn't give him any assurances that the quarantine would be lifted.

She said the other concerns didn't matter because they couldn't get past the quarantine and the show and most of the exhibitors come from outside of the state.

"We didn't even get to that because the people couldn't get it," Water said. "That became moot. If we don't have exhibitors we don't have a show. We don't have enough Vermont exhibitors to sustain a horse show of that size."

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The May 22 announcement said they were pursuing "venues outside the state."

"While competition organizers had remained hopeful the event could take place as planned, continued restrictions surrounding health, safety, and travel have forced the 2020 Vermont Summer Festival to pursue venues outside the state, including a possible move of the some of the shows to HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, NY, pending approval by the United States Equestrian Federation and New York State," the release stated. "The Vermont Summer Festival will have an update on the 2020 season soon, and looks forward to seeing its faithful exhibitors in a new location."

Ammerman said despite their best efforts, the current restrictions didn't allow the event to happen.

"With the uncertainty surrounding the current situation, and despite our diligent efforts to move forward, there are simply no viable options under the required regulations that would allow the event to take place in Vermont this year," Ammerman said. "This marks the first time that we have not run in Vermont in the event's almost 30-year history."

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When talk began circulating through the Northshire on Wednesday, several people with close connections to the show said they had been told the show was off for the year.

That was firmed up with a May 21 post on Facebook by Nathan Poliquin of Florida, whom many locals knew for his many years with the festival. Poliquin said he had worked 13 festivals in East Dorset and was eagerly awaiting his 14th when the news came.

"It's canceled," Poliquin wrote. "It breaks my heart that it's not going to happen this year."

Ammerman said he and his wife were also sad about the cancellation.

"My wife, Dotty, and I sincerely thank each and every competitor for their longstanding support of the event and the entire Vermont Summer Festival team for its dedication to making our horse show a mainstay on the North American schedule. The Village of Manchester and surrounding area has been a wonderful host to us all over the years, and we will genuinely miss seeing our friends in town this summer."

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No credit cards or checks will be processed for entries already received for the 2020 Vermont Summer Festival.

The Vermont Summer Festival is New England's largest hunter/jumper competition and is a proud member of the Marshall & Sterling League and the North American League.

It is also the richest sporting event based on purse in the state of Vermont offering more than $750,000 in prize money.

The cancellation will have a big impact on businesses that rely on the Vermont Summer Festival.

A study conducted by the Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont cited that the total direct spending of visitors frequenting Vermont for equine-related activities was estimated at nearly $15.5 million annually.

Various other studies puts the economic impact of the festival on the Northshire at between $15 million and $20 million.

For more information on the Vermont Summer Festival, visit www.vt-summerfestival.com.

Contact Darren Marcy at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.


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