DORSET — Tall and manicured, neighing competitors will return to the Dorset Horse Show next week for the annual Vermont Summer Festival.
For six weeks, the Harold Beebe Farm hosts thousands of horses for the event that turns 23 this year. From July 5 to Aug. 14, participants from all over the Northeast and some southern states show their horses and take part in jumping competitions.
Last year, capital improvements were made to the grounds in the show's rinks, according to the summer festival's marketing director, Ruth Lacey.
"Our registration is at capacity for the majority of the summer. From that standpoint, we're very happy," she said.
The festival continues to receive support from returning sponsors such as Eastern Hay, Equinox Resort, Land Rover Experience Driving School, Purina Horse Feed and Johnson Horse Transportation offering more than $750,000 in prize money.
Equinox Resort has been a partner since 2001 and will present $30,000 to the Grand Prix winner on July 23, according to the show's website. Land Rover is in its third year of sponsorship and will offer $15,000 to the NEHJA Performance Hunter Derby finalist on Aug. 11. Purina has been named the official horse feed for 2016 and will present $30,000 to the Grand Prix winner on July 30.
When the festival originated, it lasted two weeks, but grew to three, five and then six for the last 17 years, according to Lacey.
She said the community is welcoming of the summer-long event, especially the Manchester Outlets.
"Retail is always very welcoming and the outlets, they've been sponsors for 10 years. They lay out a welcome mat and hang yellow flags to show they are welcoming of the horse show people," she said. "There's a whole slew that understand the value of the six-week event in any tourism-based community. That we're there for six weeks is quite phenomenal."
In New York, the Saratoga Race Track season runs from July 22 to Sept. 5, and Lacey predicts it won't interfere with the festival, but will contribute to additional entertainment to those staying in the area.
"It does overlap but it's completely different, one is racing and one is jumping," she said. "The overlap is nice because for many of our competitors, horses are their world, so on a day off they can go over and watch the racing."
Not every competitor resides for the full six weeks, but rather two to three weeks at a time, Lacey said.
"The showing schedule is similar from one week to the next, and competitors might come just one week and a handful stay the entire six weeks," she said. "Some come the first few weeks, leave and come back before they compete in other weeks."
Every week, warmups take place on Tuesdays and competitions in five different rinks commence Thursday through Sunday.
Weekend exhibitions, boutiques and vendors will be on site as well. Spectators cost $6 for adults and $3 for children Wednesdays through Fridays. It's $9 for adults and $5 for children for the Grand Prix on Saturday and Sunday. One hundred percent of the gate proceeds benefit local non-profit organizations each year. The Manchester Community Library and Dorset Equine Rescue were chosen this year. Spectator hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
For more information visit vt-summerfestival.com.
Vermont Summer Special: July 5 to July 10
Manchester Summer Festival: July 12 to 17
Manchester Classic Horse Show: July 19 to 24
Valley Classic Horse Show: July 26 to 31
Manchester and the Mountains: Aug. 2 to 7
Vermont Summer Celebration: Aug. 9 to 14
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.