Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Goodbye to the Barrel Finals

For the past 17 years, the National Barrel Horse Association has held its championship show at the James Brown Arena in Augusta (also known as the Augusta Civic Center.) This was a huge show, often drawing 600 or more competitors from across the country, as well as from Italy and South America. The Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated that last year’s championships, which attracted about 8,000 fans, had a local economic impact of about $1.4 million.

This year, however, the National Barrel Horse Association accepted competitive bids from three other cities to hold the show: Tunica, Miss., Jackson, Miss. and Perry, Ga. Perry, which offered a substantial sponsorship package, was the winner. And so, the 2010 championships will be at the Georgia State Fairgrounds from October 25 through 30. In addition to offering the NBHA a better financial deal, the facilities in Perry also afford the event more space and more conveniently located stabling. 

Sherry Fulmer, who is the executive director of the NBHA, told the Augusta Chronicle that the bid from the Augusta Civic Center was “not even in the ballpark.” However, the NBHA is based in Augusta, and, according to Ms. Fulmer, it is not out of the question that the finals will someday return to the area

The news that NBHA finals are leaving Augusta sparked speculation that the Augusta Futurity, an annual cutting horse event, would also be on its way out. So far, however, the Augusta Futurity is still slated to come to the civic center from January 21 through 29, 2011. However, according to show management, there will be some changes in the way the show will be run.

In the past, all of the cutting runs were held at the James Brown Arena in downtown Augusta. The majority of the horses are stabled across the Savannah River at the Hippodrome in North Augusta, S. C. This meant that they had to be trailered down Route 1 every time they had a class. The distance was not long, but sometimes there was slow traffic, making the trip a bit of a headache.

This January, the qualifying go-rounds will be held at the indoor Morris Arena at the Hippodrome, with the finals taking place in the Augusta Civic Center. This way, competitors will spend less time on the road and the competition will be more convenient all the way around. It may be a good thing for the vendors, too. Although some vendors have always set up shop at the Hippodrome, the majority have been at the civic center. This year, those that are targeting the competitors (tack shops and the like) may choose to stay at the Hippodrome where they will have more exposure to the people who are riding and caring for their horses all week long. 

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