WELLINGTON, FL (WFLX) - The chilly air seemed to bring spunk to the horses as they jumped high and proud for the crowds during the World Cup Qualifier presented by Spy Coast Farms at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
But on the other side of the stands, a whole other part of Saturday Night Lights was going on. "We went to the bounce house. We went painting. We saw the petting zoo. We went on the carousel and saw the magic show. It was really fun," said Terris Wimbs.
it's activities like these that has grown Saturday Night Lights into what it is today. "The Winter Equestrian Festival is the largest single event in Palm Beach County in terms of attracting people from other areas who stay in hotel rooms, rent apartments units, rent houses," said Dean Turney.
This, in turn, generates mega dollars for Palm Beach County. "Just the pure numbers, in terms of people who come here for the festival, spend $125 million. That's just the direct impact of those who participate. It doesn't include expenditures from spectators and the residual impact," Turney continued.
"We employ about 500 people, but, I bet you, there's probably about 5,000 to 6,000 people that are directly related to the festival that are employed by Palm Beach County," Equestrian Sport Productions' CEO Mark Bellissimo explained.
Bellissimo is also making sure non-profits reap the benefits of the Winter Equestrian Festival. "From day one, we started with the Greater Charity Challenge, which has now raised about $4.2 million over four years, and it gets directly distributed back into Palm Beach County each year, so it gives us an opportunity to reach out to over 70 charities to receive that $4.2 million. The other program we did was the public school program which we have 12 weeks a circuit, and we marry up those 12 weeks which each of the public schools in Wellington."
This weekend, the spotlight was on Okeeheelee Park Middle School. "This really gives the school exposure and lets everyone know what the school has to offer," said art teacher Lolly Santiago.
"Last year, they did a big fundraiser with the horses, and they won, so our school got a lot of money donated to us which has been able to fund a lot of our educational programs for the kids," added Ms. Shearon, the band director.
Equestrian Sport Productions also invited out our friends at Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League. "We've brought out seven or eight dogs tonight [Saturday], and the Equestrian Festival was nice enough to have us come out and show our dogs, and they're all up for adoption," said Joy Humphries.
As well as the folks from Autism Speaks. "To be able to be here and talk about autism; so many families come over and say, 'I have someone who I know who has autism,'" said Denise Negron. "We try to share with them our resources that we have for them."
if you look at all the great things they're doing, it's no wonder, the economical impact is so great for Palm Beach County.
You can catch us with the Red Carpet next March 2 for the $35,000 G&C Farm Puissance.