For six weeks every summer, the Harold Beebe Farm in East Dorset becomes a Mecca for horse lovers. The 40-plus acre site, just off Route 7, plays host to the Vermont Summer Festival Horse Show.
Event officials says close to 1,000 horses and 3,000 people will take part in this year’s show, with more than $750,000 dollars up for grabs in prize money.
Berta Maginniss, Executive Director of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, says local businesses also win big. “We anecdotally say it brings in around $20 million to our region,” she says.
“Because while the run of the show is July 1st to the middle of August, obviously to set up a thousand room horse hotel and ready things begins much earlier. So the impact begins middle of June through end of August because it has to be dismantled and tucked up for winter,” Maginnis says.
“It’s a summer-long celebration,” she says. “One we look forward to every year.”
Ruth Lacy handles public relations for the Vermont Summer Festival. She says many participants spend weeks at the East Dorset horse show, so the economic impact is broader than just the hotels and restaurants.
“Shaws, the supermarket and Price Chopper, gas stations, Laundromats, nail salons, local vets and one of the areas that we don’t often think about is the little East Dorset Post office. It sees a huge spike and the U.S. Postal Service has indicated that if not for us they would likely close that post office,” says Lacy.
They’re still crunching numbers, but Lacy says this years attendance is up 20 to 30 percent.
She says organizers attribute the increase to costly improvements made to the site’s ground cover, or "footings," that the horses compete on.
Lacy says many of the top horses are valued at hundreds of thousand of dollars, so it’s vital that competitive venues have the latest and best ground covering to ensure competing horses avoid injury.
The upgraded footings were put in this spring and she says organizers hope that as word of the improvement spreads, attendance next summer will be even higher.