Home Homepage Featured Oh Calcutta! Blowing Rock to host equestrian event with international flair

Oh Calcutta! Blowing Rock to host equestrian event with international flair

By David Rogers. September 15, 2019. BLOWING ROCK, NC — The largest cash purse in the history of horse show jumping in Blowing Rock will be on the line September 21st, when the L.M. Tate Show Grounds at the Broyhill Equestrian Preserve hosts The Fisher Memorial Grand Prix. Proceeds from admission and a Calcutta benefit Hunger and Health Coalition and the MANNA program of Asheville.

COVER IMAGE: A jumper competing in a previous Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show during the summer. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News

The purse is $50,000 and a maximum of 30 professional and amateur riders will compete for it in the one-day event.

For those familiar with the iconic Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show, held each summer at the Tate Show Grounds for the past 96 years, there are a few differences in this competition with a big cash prize and an international field of riders and horses.

Blowing Rock resident and local equestrian representative Maurice Ewing explained to Blowing Rock News this week, “To capture the winner’s share of the purse, the horses and riders must navigate a far more complex course of fences than is typical for jumpers at the Blowing Rock show in the summer. Fences will be taller, ranging to almost five feet in height, and some of the obstacles will be wider, as much as five and a half feet deep.”

The food needs addressed by Hunger & Health Coalition in the High Country are severe. As a resort community with a major university, we might look prosperous, but Watauga County overall is the third poorest county in North Carolina.

The Fisher Memorial Grand Prix is an invitation-only competition.  The international field of competitors have been invited on the basis of their historical winnings, the quality of their horses, and their respective reputations as riders and trainers. Where some riders in the “regular” Blowing Rock jumping shows during the summer often ride multiple horses, for the Fisher Memorial Grand Prix they are allowed to ride only one horse. That means they have only one chance to win, which they must do by leaving all of the rails up, completing the course in the time allowed, and survive any jump off against the clock.

“Stealth, daring, agility, riding skill, and fitness for both horse and rider,” observed Ewing, “along with a little luck, will determine who will take home the winner’s share.”

There will be some familiar faces to equestrian fans who have frequented the summer Blowing Rock shows, including Vick Russell of Tryon, NC, one of the Grand Prix organizers. The field will also feature the Daniel Geitner of Aiken, SC, Daniel (a former Grand Prix champion), as well as Aiken, SC-based brothers, Lincoln and Clayton Russell.

Said Vick Russell of this event, “We are creating a level playing field for both the amateur and professional (riders) by limiting the competition to a maximum of 30 riders and allowing only one horse per rider. Every horse-rider pair invited to this event will have the skills needed to win. Plus, as an invitational-only event, we know that only the very best riding will take the top prize. That’s what fans will see in Blowing Rock on the 21st.”

The James Fisher International Grand Prix is sponsored by the James H. Fisher Memorial Foundation, under the direction of Jack Fisher and his family. The event started three years ago to honor the memory of James Fisher, son and brother, himself a nationally recognized jumper rider.

It will take stealth, daring, agility, riding skill, fitness and a little bit of luck for a horse and rider to win their share of the $50,000 purse put up by Jack Fisher.

According to statements made to Blowing Rock News at a meeting with organizers on August 13th, Jack Fisher is paying all of the expenses for the event, including the contribution of the $50,000 purse. In conjunction with the event, a “Calcutta” will pair horse and rider combinations with fans who will “bid” on who they pick as the eventual winner of the competition. The highest bidder who chooses the winner will receive use of what Ewing describes as a “lavish Caribbean vacation home.”

“One hundred percent (100%) of the Calcutta proceeds,” Ewing noted, “will go to support the Hunger and Health Coalition in Boone and the MANNA program in Asheville.

“The need is far greater than one might expect in the High Country,” added Ewing. “Most people seem prosperous and there are clear signs of a booming economy. Here in Watauga County we enjoy majestic mountains, national parks, and breath-taking sunsets. But lurking below the surface of what many describe as an idyllic mountain enclave lies the third poorest county in North Carolina. The average annual household income in Watauga County is just a little above $32,000. Eighteen percent (18%) of women live below the poverty line. More than half of the county’s population lives in rural areas, often in multi-generational households. Many people here rely on seasonal work in tourism and agriculture just to survive.

The late James H. Fisher. Photo courtesy of the Fisher Memorial Grand Prix

“Low-income residents in both Watauga and Buncombe counties often must make a choice between providing housing, utilities, or food for their families, but not necessarily all three,” Ewing noted, in outlining the needs addressed by the Fisher Memorial Grand Prix.

Elizabeth Young, Executive Director of Boone-based Hunger and Health Coalition, shared, “We are so deeply honored to partner with the Fisher family and all of the attendees of the Grand Prix to fight hunger in the High Country. It is our mission to ensure that everyone in the region has access to healthy foods and life-sustaining medications.  Each dollar raised will allow us to purchase $5 worth of nutritious foods for our neighbors in need.  This incredible event is helping our team to not only meet immediate and emergency needs but also to create paths for better long-term health outcomes.”

There are three ways to support the charitable causes of the Fisher Memorial Grand Prix:

  1. Purchase $10 general admission ticket that includes ringside grandstand seats, free parking and the Calcutta opportunity
  2. Purchase a $75 premium ticket that entitles the purchaser onsite valet parking, a gourmet luncheon, ringside box seats, and the Calcutta opportunity
  3. “Bid” aggressively on a favorite rider during the Calcutta

The ticket options are available online at www.eventbrite.com

The grounds open at 11:00 am on Saturday, lunch and food trucks available at 11:30. The Calcutta auction of riders is at 12:30 pm, with the first horse on the course slated to begin jumping at 2:00 pm.

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