Lexington Welcomes 325,000 for Games

by Jake Hawkins
Staff

After watching the (many) countdown clocks for months, the counter is about to hit zero.

Opening ceremonies for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games will be held Saturday, Sept. 25, at 7 p.m. at the Kentucky Horse Park. According to Susanna Elliott, the Alltech public relations manager for the WEG, Lexington and the surrounding area will be the center stage for “the largest equestrian competition in the world.”
What this means for members of the Transylvania community remains to be seen, but many students, faculty and staff are seizing the opportunity to play a role in this event.

Transy will have a booth on campus for Lexington visitors to stop by at any point and learn more about the university. In addition, Transy will staff a booth at certain WEG events.

What is perhaps a bigger concern, especially for students, is the influx of people into the downtown area and what effects this will have.

According to Elliott, 325,000 tickets have been sold. This, however, does not reflect attendees 12 and under, who receive free grounds passes with a ticket-purchasing adult. Tickets have been purchased by people from all 50 states and more than 50 countries.

Elliott also said that there are 800 human athletes and 900 equine coming from 58 different countries.

“There are a lot of people coming. The world is coming to Lexington,” said Elliot, who added, “This is a 16-day event and all these people will be spread out.”

The biggest issue with downtown traffic, according to Elliott, will be related to the Alltech Fortnight Festival and Spotlight Lexington.

The Fortnight Festival is, as the name suggests, a two-week event that hopes, according to its website, to “involve all of Kentucky in the excitement that is the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.”

Mandy Daugherty, the spokeswoman for the Alltech Fortnight Festival, said that the festival will play host to more than 60 ticketed concerts in Lexington and will have sponsored events at multiple bars and restaurants in the city.

“It is something we’re doing for Kentucky,” said Daugherty. “We’re not really in the concert business. … Our entire goal is to break even.”

The festival will take place at multiple locations in Lexington and throughout Kentucky, ranging from Buster’s Billiards and Backroom to Centre College. Even Transy will be playing host to a few events.

Another downtown event associated with the WEG is Spotlight Lexington. Unlike the Fortnight Festival, Spotlight is independent from the games. According to its website, Spotlight Lexington aims to provide the opportunity “to experience the World Equestrian Games even if you can’t make it to the Horse Park.”
The three main venues for Spotlight Lexington are Cheapside Park, Triangle Park and, as the main stage, the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza.
The opening night celebration for Spotlight Lexington is on Friday at the Courthouse Plaza at 6 p.m.

As for the horse events themselves, Elliott said, “We’ve been really trying to market to people that this is not just a horse race.”

In fact, racing, especially in the style of the thoroughbred Kentucky Derby, hardly factors into the WEG at all.

There are seven athletic events: dressage, eventing, driving, jumping, vaulting, reining, endurance and para dressage.

For those unable to purchase a ticket to any of the events, several options are available. As part of Spotlight Lexington, a screen showing a live feed of events will be set up in the Stephens Courthouse Plaza.

On Sunday, Sept. 26, students from all Kentucky colleges and universities will be offered free admission to the day’s events.

Additionally, NBC will be telecasting certain events. The opening ceremonies will be telecast live on local NBC affiliates.

According to Elliott, NBC will also nationally telecast the events every Sunday. The telecast of events on Oct. 3 directly follows the Ryder Cup and is expected to bring 460 million viewers — five times as many spectators as the Super Bowl draws.

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