Horse show brings big money to South Mississippi

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Horse owners and competitive riders from across the country have arrived in South Mississippi.

They're getting set for the annual Winter Classic horse show which kicks off Thursday at the Harrison County Fairgrounds.

Despite the national recession, this year's classic is expecting near record numbers.

The horses are big, beautiful and oh so graceful. Top horses and competitive riders are set to show their skills at the fairgrounds.

This year marks the 10th anniversary for the Gulf Coast Winter Classic.

"I'll tell you, we're blessed. As of this moment, we're as big as we were last year. And last year was a record setting year," said show organizer Janet McCarroll.

The economic impact of such a show is staggering. Organizers use a formula developed especially for equestrian events.

"And when you add that to the numbers for our horse show, we believe that the projected economic impact to the coastal region is around $42,000,000," said McCarroll.

"We bring about 20 to 25 horses. And on average we have three to five horses in the grand prix. Hopefully, we'll win a couple of those," said rider and horse owner, Wilhelm Genn.

The owner of Rhineland Farm is a top competitor. While he hopes to claim a share of the prize money, Genn will also be spending plenty in South Mississippi.

"Just our barn, we leased three apartments for two months. Obviously we go out to dinners a lot. We buy clothes. We love the little outlet mall here," he said.

"My daughter is 13 and she rides in the junior class," said Steve Brown from Virginia.

Brown also expects his family will spend plenty on meals and shopping during an extended visit.

"Money well spent, that's for sure. It's just like a family vacation for us," says Brown.

Horse owners and riders and visitors have plenty of time to spend their money here and enjoy South Mississippi's hospitality. This event lasts for a month and a half.

"It's a nice place. If you're going to make your home somewhere with your animals for six weeks in a warmer climate during the winter, this place is great," said McCarroll.

Along with home and apartment rentals, the Winter Classic also means hundreds of hotel room bookings during its six week run.

The horse show competition begins Thursday and continues through March 15th.