Equestrians travel nationwide for Vermont Summer Festival - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Equestrians travel nationwide for Vermont Summer Festival

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A huge month for horse-lovers in Southern Vermont. An annual event that not only attracts great riders, but also gives area businesses a big boost.

"They do a great job here, the weather is beautiful, and we just love it here," said competitor Jimmy Torano.

Tarano is a trainer and grand prix winner. For many years, his family has been traveling from Florida to the Vermont Summer Festival in Dorset. He travels across the nation competing in horse shows, but always looks forward to bringing his family to the Green Mountain State.

"It's a laid-back atmosphere here," Torano said. "Yes, they have the big level with the grand prix's, but they have all the lower levels for the kids. There is something for everyone here."

And while the thousands of riders focus on getting a blue ribbon, the six-week festival is celebrating its 20 year anniversary. Organizers say over the last two decades, the show has not only tripled in size and length, but has drawn higher skilled athletes.

"The types of people we draw now is completely different from 20 years ago," said Ruth Lacey of the Vermont Summer Festival Horse Show. "The first two weeks of our event this year we had an Olympic gold medalist winning our big class of the week. It was our $30,000 grand prix every Saturday. So we are drawing olympic gold medalists to our event," Lacey continued.

Lacey says every day is filled with dozens of events more and than 2,000 riders. The Vermont Summer Festival, Lacey says, is the longest and largest horse show in New England. But some riders say they just look forward to being out in the countryside.

"It's easier to focus when its not like so much going on and so many people. And it's nice to be away from like all the social scene. I have friends at home and we ride near the Hamptons, so it's nice to like get away for a little. And come where I don't know as many people. It is fun," said competitor Lillie Hymowitz of New York City.

And as the festival continues to grow, and the $750, 000 dollars of prize money attracts more riders every year, the local economy wins as well. Lacey estimates the festival brings in $14 million to the region.

"It's critical for the area. It's just vital for restaurants, motels, hotels, inns, all the shops, the laundromat. It's critical," said the Inn at Manchester's Frank Hanes.

He says he appreciates the booming business the festival brings, and also type of business. Hanes says riding families usually stay from 4 days to several weeks.

"It's kind of neat you can have a relationship with the whole family and that is really important to us," Hanes said.

A festival celebrating 20 years of growth with local businesses looking forward to many more to come.

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