If you’re familiar with the Winter Equestrian Festival, Saturday nights are Grand Prix nights, with the top riders vying for big prize money under the lights in front of huge crowds. Equestrian Sport Productions has now brought its Saturday Night tradition to the Tryon International Equestrian Center, and it has all the familiar excitement and fun from Wellington. If you missed my first two posts about my recent trip to this brand new facility, you can view my tour of Tryon here, or meet those that I interviewed for Horse Show Faces here.
The first thing you should know about Tryon’s Saturday Night Lights is that admission and parking are free, which is awesome, and certainly contributed to the large crowd that showed up to this relatively new event. When I was at the Tryon 7 Saturday Night Grand Prix, the overall presentation of the event filled me with an immense sense of pride to witness our sport shown off in such a fun, refreshing way, largely thanks to the fantastic venue. Gates for the $127,000 Kingsland FEI Grand Prix opened to the public at 5pm and the competition began at 6:30pm. I recommend arriving early to enjoy all of the extra fun or grab dinner on-site before the riding begins.
There were a number of activities and new vendors set up outside the Legends Club for the evening.
They had magicians!
The Fettuccine Brothers transferred skills on to passing admirers.
A cookout at Roger’s Diner attracted a large crowd. Too bad there isn’t technology that allows you to smell the amazing barbecue from a photo.
I didn’t realize that the Legends Club Grille opened up to the patio via folding glass doors until the evening. It was packed – a good sign.
The lights were on and the moon was out!
A vendor was selling my two weaknesses: hats and Breyer horses.
They even had a real wood-fired pizza oven going with fresh dough rolled out in front of you. Yum.
It wouldn’t be an ESP event without a carousel, and it’s free, of course. ALL ages welcome. For an extra smile, google image search ‘George Morris Tryon carousel.’
The grassy hill was a popular seating area to set up at.
Apparently they also had some trapeze artists under this covering, but I was already ringside when they got started.
This is where I was for part of the evening. It’s a nice seating area where trainers, family members, and grooms-turned-videographers can come up right next to the in-gate and watch their riders’ rounds. I love when I am standing next to a rider’s groom and they are whispering “Come on!” or clucking underneath their breath as if they are on course with their rider and horse. So sweet. Who says riding can’t be a team sport?
The jumps were set!
And the ribbons were laid by the in-gate with care.
They had a fun band playing before and after the show.
The schooling ring was quiet and ready to go.
They had some great sports-arena like activities including dancing for a t-shirt and a kiss cam.
I really wanted a Tryon t-shirt, and so did everyone else.
The National Anthem and a cover of “Best Day Of My Life” by American Authors were sung by students from the nearby Polk County High School.
The sun was still out as the first riders toured the course. It felt a little bit like the official start to (an amazing) summer.
The Grand Prix attracted many top riders.
The Tryon jump and an excited crowd in the background.
Another view of the Tryon jump.
The video board gave useful information such as the rider, trainer, owner, and horse, as well as a headshot of each, in case you were wondering who looks completely different with their helmet off.
The Rolex jump is always a staple, first at WEF and now at Tryon.
Kingsland Equestrian sponsored the Tryon Spring 7 Grand Prix. Pictured here, the Kingsland jump.
The event was very easy to follow for the spectators who aren’t used to watching show jumping events. Before the riders started, they showed an animation of the course on the big screen, then they played lively pop music after each rider’s completion of the last jump of the course.
Grand Prix golden hour.
The Legends Club VIP area in the background is improving by the day–it already looks more developed than it did in this picture. Early adopters will be able to say they sat there when it looked like this.
The sun started to set as the riding continued.
The sun setting against the vendor cabins made for a stunning backdrop.
Eventually the sun went down and we were officially under the lights.
Sometimes, you don’t need both feet in your stirrups to go clear when you’re a Grand Prix rider.
Charlie Jayne was one of the speediest of the evening with the 2nd fastest first round time and fastest jump off time, but had an unfortunate rail down in the Kingsland combination in the jump off that dropped him to 6th. Always a fun rider to watch and it’s great that Tryon is already attracting the sport’s top talent.
Kristen Vanderveen during her winning jump off round.
Vanderveen was the last jump off rider to go, clinching the victory on the final jump here.
The crowd’s loudest moment was at this point, celebrating Vanderveen’s stunning victory over Sharn Wordley.
Kristen was all smiles from the moment she landed the last jump all the way through the awards ceremony and her victory gallop.
The scene at the end of the evening after the crowds had left.
During Tryon Spring 8 the following weekend, the $210,000 FEI Tryon Grand Prix for the Governor’s Cup (presented by Rolex) was held as the main Saturday night event and boasted a completely packed house on all sides of the George H. Morris ring. And not only did it attract the largest attendance at Tryon ever (I heard ~ 12,000+ spectators), it was filmed and then broadcast by NBC Sports Network this past Sunday. I’m thrilled that Tryon is attracting locals, many of whom have never attended a horse show before. I’m also so excited that the management is thinking of both its equestrian audience and non-horse people when planning these events so that everyone can enjoy the show grounds, and in turn the show grounds can support the surrounding communities.
Also during the Spring 8 Grand Prix, the Festival of the Carolinas Asheville Craft Beer Festival was held, no doubt attracting an audience from many different cities in nearby NC and SC. The Craft Beer Festival seemed to have run seamlessly with the equestrian event, as ticket holders, for $4o, enjoyed the benefits of a buffet dinner, Tryon souvenir cup, and a reserved seating section to watch the Grand Prix – all in addition to unlimited pours from the participating craft breweries.
The fun didn’t stop there. Country music artist Lee Greenwood also performed during the event and the Special Forces Parachute Team did a four-person tandem jump from 8,000 feet into the ring. No big deal.
The best part is that all of this is only the beginning. I’m so excited to visit during the summer and update you all on the show’s progress then, or even better – see you there in person! The Saturday Night Lights events will continue at the Tryon Summer Series during June and July. My countdown has already begun! 🙂
Update: The all new “Travel Guides” tab on the blog features guides of where to stay and what to do in various horse show towns across the U.S., and Tryon is up first! Click here to visit the all new Tryon Travel Guide for suggestions for accommodations, restaurants, and activities in the area. The page will be updated regularly.