Gulf Coast Winter Classic back for the 17th time - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulf Coast Winter Classic back for the 17th time

Christian Rodriguez works on a jump that will be used during the competition at the Gulf Coast Winter Classic. (Photo source: WLOX) Christian Rodriguez works on a jump that will be used during the competition at the Gulf Coast Winter Classic. (Photo source: WLOX)
The Gulf Coast Winter Classic Horse Shows begin Wednesday and will end March 15 at the Harrison County Fairgrounds and Equestrian Center. (Photo source: WLOX) The Gulf Coast Winter Classic Horse Shows begin Wednesday and will end March 15 at the Harrison County Fairgrounds and Equestrian Center. (Photo source: WLOX)
HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

Those horse trailers being pulled into town this weekend likely were headed to the Harrison County Fairgrounds and Equestrian Center in Gulfport. It's time again for the Gulf Coast Winter Classic Horse Shows.

The shows begin Wednesday and end March 15. Some arrived early to get themselves and their horses oriented for the event.

For weeks, organizers have been on the spot, preparing for the up to 1,200 competitors who will be embedded for six weeks of competition and the nearly 12,000 spectators. It brings in workers like Christian Rodriguez who builds and paints jumps for horse shows all over the country.

“I like the finishing product really, making it look good,” Rodriguez said. “I enjoy that people come to the show. Lot of people come to the show, and they just enjoy and I enjoy them coming and jumping the jumps that I built.”

John Mastriano, of New Jersey, owns 20 horses and has been coming to the classic for 15 years.

“This is very relaxing for us down here,” Mastriano said. “We sort of call it our little vacation. It's low pressure for us, because the horse show makes it a very calm atmosphere for everyone.”

This is the 17th year for the classic. It's one of the smaller shows, but has earned top recognition by the competitors. Janet McCarroll has been in charge since the beginning.

“It's to keep them happy and the horses safe,” McCarroll said. “It's a really big deal. I think they choose us because they know we work really hard to be sure their experience here is good. And the area, let's face it, it's so nice here. Why wouldn't they like it?”

With a $40 million estimated economic impact, South Mississippi is liking it as well.

“These are people who are actually coming here to live for six weeks,” McCarroll said. “Not somebody who comes in and leaves. They're buying groceries. They're buying supplies. We've had people buy cars while they are here.”

There is competitive action each week from Wednesday to Sunday, but organizers are encouraging the public to attend on Sundays at 1:30 p.m. for the Grand Prix main event. Admission is free.

This year, the classic will have a rodeo on March 13-14. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children younger than 12.

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