Written by Melissa Argueta Friday, 28 May 2010 00:00
Get ready to horse around as the first annual Northeast Equine Expo comes to town. Expected to draw nearly 30,000 people to the Long Island communities of Elmont and Floral Park, the expo will be the kick-off event for the final leg of the Triple Crown Belmont Stakes Race on Memorial Day weekend, May 29-30.
Expo president and founder Jessica Walsh, a Massachusetts native, first visited the majestic Belmont Park with her grandfather when she was a young child. An avid horse enthusiast, she came up with the idea of creating an equine expo after realizing that New York had yet to host one that incorporated all equestrian disciplines. Through a lot of perseverance and determination, Walsh enlisted a passionate team of staff members to go about the daunting task of organizing the big event. “It’s turned from a dream into a reality and I want to share it with everyone and inspire them,” she said.
According to Walsh, Long Island was the perfect spot to host the expo, as it has always been known for its robust equestrian community. “Long Island has more than 60,000 horses residing in Suffolk and Nassau counties and 140,000 people involved in the equine activities as owners, riders, service providers, employees, volunteers and spectators,” Walsh said. She also noted that Long Island was home to the nation’s first polo club in 1881, The Meadowbrook Polo Club in Old Westbury. “This is an amazing area to live in and we need to have our own thing,” she said. “It’s a great resource for the community,” Walsh added.
Whether you are a horse lover or just want to enjoy a family-friendly event, the expo will feature dozens of breeds, continuous demonstrations and clinics of equine sports, polo matches, and hundreds of vendors of horse-related equipment and gifts. The organization is also generously donating a portion of ticket proceeds to local animal rescue organizations Amaryllis Farms and Project Sage Horse Rescue, who take care of abused horses.
Children and adults alike will no doubt enjoy seeing the horse stars of the Disney movies Hidalgo and soon-to-be released Secretariat. The movie is based on a true story of a legendary horse in 1973, which was crowned as the first US Triple Crown champion in 25 years at Belmont Park Racetrack. The starring horse will appear with Rex Peterson, his Hollywood trainer. Peterson also trained the equine stars of The Horse Whisperer, Black Beauty, Dreamer, The Ring, and Hidalgo. In addition, Oscar, one of the Hidalgo stars, will pose for pictures and sign his personal “autograph.”
With many Long Island businesses and merchants feeling the effects of a slumping economy, Walsh hopes the Northeast Equine Expo will bring a new excitement and increased tourism to the area. In addition to large sponsors, she has received much interest from local business owners who wanted to be a part of the event. Walsh is enthusiastic that the fun spirit of the event will catch on with the local community. “It’s going to be special,” she said. “We are hoping to have this to look forward to for years and years to come,” she added.
Tickets, $18 for one day, and $25 for both days, are available online at neequineexpo.com and at Belmont Park. Participating charities are offering members a special code that entitles them to discounted admission. Part of these ticket sales will be donated back to the charity.
Between events, families can enjoy a picnic on Belmont’s manicured grounds, or visit the duck pond and playground for children. All Long Island students from 5 to 16 are invited to the art competition, based on the theme, Horses Bring Us Joy. Prizes will be awarded to the winners in three age categories: 5-8, 9-12, and 13-16.
Children under age 10, Boy and Girl Scouts in uniform, as well as active members of the armed forces with identification will be admitted without charge.
For more information about the expo schedule, exhibitors, and tickets, call (877) 778-EXPO, or click on clinics or tickets tabs on the website at NeEquineExpo.com.