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Annual barrel race returns to Champlain Valley Exposition

Published: Aug. 1, 2020 at 8:54 PM EDT
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - An annual event returned to the Chaplain Valley Expo this weekend. The Green Mountain Barrel race kicked off Friday evening and continued Saturday.

Sue Jobst, one of the main organizers, says the biggest challenge facing the Green Mountain Barrel Race crew ahead of this weekend’s event was ensuring everyone followed state health guidelines. Organizers posted warnings on their website saying attendees must wear masks and maintain social distance. Those reminders also rang over the loud speakers continuously.

“We did a lot of prep in the beginning when COVID hit to try to figure out how we can keep this going, what we could do to make it work,” Jobst said. “Everybody has come to expect what we need to do for the COVID-19, so all of these reminders are not getting people upset. They’re like, ‘We know we need to follow it, we want to do this.‘”

Staff disinfected and sanitized the spectator stands every 10 to 15 minutes, once every four races. Attendees like Jennifer Juneau say they were happy to support the competitors.

“We got some really good riders. They have a lot of open riders. There’s about 35,” she said. “So it’s good to watch. A little hot, but it’s good.”

Though riders weren’t required to wear a mask on the course, they were as soon as they stepped outside the ring.

“Generally we are able to ride our horses and stay within six feet apart. You naturally do that with horses anyways,” said competitor Liza Mountford.

Organizers say they’re ecstatic the show could go on despite the pandemic because it gives the Champlain Valley Expo a financial boost, especially since the annual fair was cancelled.

“We want to be able to hold these shows. We want the fair grounds to be able to take in some income to sustain themselves,” Jobst said. “While we’re just a little bit of a show, every little bit helps. It keeps the sanity for the people. Horses are great for the mind.”

A list of Barrel Race winners will be available on the organization’s website at greenmountainbarrelracing.com.

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