Since 1999, horses and their owners from across the country, Canada and Mexico have pranced their way to the big bucks finale at the Winter Classics Horse Show. But too many strikes forced organizers to re-think next year's competition.
"Certainly the fairgrounds had minimal damage. We could certainly get it back in shape. The hotel rooms were a problem and also the timeline by my governing body. I have to make a decision early, people have to make plans. So I have to have things sort of set in stone months in advance," show organizer Janet McCarroll says.
People attending the horse show kept the cash registers ringing at area businesses like one Highway 53 feed store. Owner Kenny Fazzio says, "They come buy their feed and shavings, hay and miscellaneous tack. We probably could see $25,000 to $30,000 for that six week period that they're here."
The hotels along the west strip of Highway 49 will also miss the extra business. Managers say during that normally slow tourist time of the year, they could count on full rooms.
"They spend a lot of money when they're here. They eat two or three times out and they shop at our local shops and go to our other attractions, So they will be missed. But under the circumstances, we've got other people in the rooms and we just don't have any rooms to spare," says manager Greg Stewart.
The 2006 show would have made seven years the horses have competed at the county fairgrounds. Janet McCarroll says making the decision to move to Pensacola, even temporarily, was tough.
"I just couldn't give it up. I was the last holdout. When we decided to move to Pensacola, I still didn't like it. But we're going to keep the event alive so it can come back bigger and stronger here in '07."
Because the arena in Pensacola is much smaller than the one here, McCarroll says the competition will take place for only three weeks there instead of the normal six week run.