Consistency Pays Off for the Gulf Coast Winter Series
RELEASE: July 8, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Robbi Meisel
The 2009 series has become the hot topic among the equestrian community from coast to coast. Under the management of Bob Bell and Janet McCarroll the Gulf Coast Winter Series continues to grow both in popularity and improvements. “Consistent rules, Great staff, and Fair policies.” are what Bell, president of Classic Company, states to be the building blocks used to achieve the exhibitors’ ideal showing experience.
“We truly do listen to our riders-trainers’ suggestions and try to implement their ideas when possible.” Bell stated. One of the most requested ideas will become a reality for the 2009 season with the addition of a sixth week of AA competition. This year’s Gulf Series will run from February 4 through March 15. In past years, pre-hurricane Katrina, the coast series had been as many as seven weeks, but various factors such as the storm damage to area hotels and restaurants put co-chairs McCarroll and Bell almost back to square one. However, the perseverance of the community and begging of long time attendees spurred management not to abandon their goals or hopes for the winter series. “I think after Katrina a lot of people worried that we might move to another location” began Bell, “But given the overwhelming support and encouragement we received our determination to be bigger and better at our home [Gulfport] was unshakable.”
In addition to gaining another week of competition, the show grounds are expanding as well. Three new tent pads complete with electricity and water are currently under construction thus eliminating a lot of the “wait listing” experienced over the past couple of years. Ground has already been broken and work has begun on two new rings--one each for hunters and jumpers as well as a new schooling area. “Since our return post Katrina each year the wait list has gotten longer and longer. We hate to disappoint anyone so when the board of the Harrison County Equestrian Center saw the numbers on that list last year they approached us about expanding. Needless to say we were ecstatic” Bell stated. This year the series can comfortably accommodate upwards of 1,200 horses.
The Gulf Coast series is also well known for it’s “down home charm” and “amazing local tastes” when it comes to the weekly exhibitor parties. No stuffy attitudes or dress codes here just a bounty of great food and fun. The annual Dodge Ball tournament, while sounding like a throw back to childhood, has become one of the most anticipated competitions of the show. It began three years ago at the suggestion of an exhibitor. “Even we [Classic Company] had never thought of that one,” laughed Bell, “This is why we rely heavily on our clients to participate in brain storming!”
The icing on this cake for riders and trainers is in the increased prize money. While many shows are downsizing the dollars offered to winners, the Gulf Coast’s popularity has been attracting more sponsors. Over the course of the six weeks more than $600,000 will be awarded, including a total of seven $25,000 Grand Prix. “We want our hard working riders to not only have a fun show experience with us, but to reward them for all the hours and/or miles it took for them to reach this point.” commented Bell on the increased prize money.
All in all, if a savvy exhibitor is looking for the perfect winter escape Classic Company believes they’ve got the answer with a combined total of 12 weeks of USEF AA rated competitions. Beginning with the blustery month of January riders in the extreme northern US can enjoy four weeks at the Jacksonville Winter Series, January 7-February 2, held in Green Cove Springs, FL then take a leisurely drive over to Gulfport, MS for the next 6 weeks, February 4 – March 15, and finally welcome spring back with two weeks of the Atlanta Spring Classics, March 18-March 29, located at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers.
To learn more about Gulf Coast Winter Classics,