Gulf Coast Winter Classic returns

By Krystal Allan – bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - During a busy week, as many as 1,000 horses will showcase their best skills during the Gulf Coast Winter Classic. The event runs for six weeks at the Harrison County Fairgrounds. This year, an increase in new entries has kept workers with the show or circuit as it's also called quite busy.

"I think our circuit has become stronger in our industry, but we also had some people who came to beat the weather in the Northeast cause even though it might be a little cold there, it's better weather here than there," organizer Janet McCarroll said.

Tim Sweat, a horse trainer, is making his 12th visit to the show.  He's come to South Mississippi since the classic first began.

"Gulf Coast circuits is one of the best around.  Harrison County has done a beautiful job every year of improving its facility, doing a great job," Sweat said.

Sweat said it's not just organizers rolling out the welcome mat to competitors from across the country.

"The town, everybody enjoys us coming down here.  We have our regular places that we come to visit, that's part of why we like coming down here," Sweat said.

Organizers estimate for each horse about three people come down to the coast. Those numbers, organizers say, quickly add up in favor of local businesses.

"We think that to the coast area all the economic impact is about 42 million during the time that we're here," McCarroll said.

Sweat, who plans to work with about nine horses during the show, said he's more than willing to contribute to the economic impact as long as there's a show on the Gulf Coast.

"There's no other circuit we're going to go to. We're going to come to this circuit as long as can," Sweat said.

The show runs through Saturday, March 20.

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