World Cup Qualifier Red Carpet Review

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.

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," said Terris Wimbs. "We saw the petting zoo. We went on the carousel and saw the magic show. It was really fun."

It's activities, free to everyone, 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," explained economist Dean Turney, Equine Community Relations. "They rent apartments units, they rent houses."

Generating mega dollars for Palm Beach County. "Just the pure numbers, in terms of people who come here for the festival, spend $125 million," he continued. "That's just the direct impact of those who participate. It doesn't include expenditures from spectators and the residual impact."

"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," said Mark Bellissimo, Equestrian Sport Productions' CEO.

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 let's 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," the band director, Ms. Shearon, said.

Equestrian Sport Productions also invited out our friends at Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League. "We've brought out seven or eight dogs tonight, and the equestrian festival was nice enough to have us come out and show our dogs, and they're all up for adoption."

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. We try to share with them our resources that we have for them," said Denise Negron.

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.

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