HARRISON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - We’re just a little more than five weeks away from the start of the Gulf Coast Winter Classics. The annual six-week horse show brings in people from across the country, but this year, COVID 19 is forcing some changes. The biggest change - spectators won’t be allowed.
“It’s heartbreaking really. I hate it,” said Gulf Coast Winter Classics Coordinator Janet McCarroll. “I’m hoping that maybe we can get some changes. We’re not going to give up, but at this moment, I have to say that we’re a non spectator sport. But we still got a month. We can try.”
And for the competitors, McCarroll said safety protocols will be in place.
“We’re going to be very stringent with our COVID rules because we want to keep everyone safe. We’re very stringent on the rules for the horses, we have been for years, because there are also pandemics for horses. So now everybody’s just going to be strict. We’re all going to fight disease. So it’ll work out.” said McCarroll.
Last year, the final two weeks of the Winter Classics were canceled due to COVID-19. McCarroll said there’s no talk about canceling this year’s event but she says the possibility is always there.
“It’s very hard and very scary,” said McCarroll. “Cause there’s a lot of money on the line here that has to be put up front, and we hope that through the different revenue sources of this horse show that we recoup that. We may not.”
The Gulf Coast Winter Classics always has a huge economic impact on the Coast, bringing in millions of dollars, and McCarroll said she expects this year will be no different.
“We love it here, and this is a great place and I really feel like a lot of people are going to come here and spend a lot of money, so we really hope that happens.” said McCarroll.
This year’s Gulf Coast Winter Classics runs from February 17th to March 28th.