Everyone gets entertained at the Virginia Horse Festival
The Virginia Horse Festival, which will run May 3-5 at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County, includes everything from canine capers to equine entertainment, pony petting, a Secretariat salute, a Derby Day party and a brand-new Derby Dash 5K race.
“Although the festival is geared toward equestrians, there truly is something for everyone,” noted Stuart Sanders, the festival’s event manager. “This family-friendly event will be educational, entertaining and celebratory as well, giving nod to the property’s horse-racing legacy.”
Featured attractions include the Aurora equestrian circus by Legacy Family Entertainment. The 30-minute performance includes aerialists, comedians, dancers, singers and trick riders. The horse extravaganza—created by two families with over 40 years’ combined equestrian performance experience—will be presented three times daily.
The Canine Stars showcases multiple breeds and mixes of dogs that have been rescued or adopted from shelters. Each day they will thrill audiences with their canine antics, including freestyle disc catching, high jumping, agility and flyball racing. One of the dogs and its trainer, Sara Carson and Hero, made it to the finals of America’s Got Talent in 2017. Canine Stars will give three performances each day.
For young attendees, there will be a Hokie Horse Education Station offering free activities starting at 11 a.m. daily. There also will be daily story time with children’s author Susan Williamson. She will regale festivalgoers with horse-themed stories at 1 p.m. in the Farm Bureau Center Friday through Sunday.
Those who want to gallop the grounds like Secretariat and other famous horses once did can register for the inaugural Derby Dash 5K and 1-mile walk on May 4. Advance registration is available through April 20, but participants may register on race day. A race registration includes a commemorative T-shirt and admission to the festival. Proceeds will go toward rebuilding the recently burned Beaverdam Equestrian Center and to projects of the newly announced Secretariat Heritage Center. Race time is 9 a.m., and the first-place winners in each category will receive a dozen roses in honor of Derby Day.
For fans of the Kentucky Derby, a ticketed Derby Day party will feature Meadow Mint Julep Tram Tours around the historic barns; visits with Groundshaker, a great-great granddaughter of Secretariat; live music and a Derby hat contest; tours of the Meadow Champion Galleries, Triple Crown Room and the Chenery Collection in Meadow Hall; large-screen TVs to watch the race coverage; and a cocktail buffet of Derby fare with a Virginia flair.
Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of Secretariat owner Penny Chenery, will premiere a film, Remembering Riva Ridge, produced by her brother John Tweedy. Riva Ridge was Secretariat’s older stablemate and was the first Meadow Stable horse to win the Derby. Riva’s win on May 6, 1972, fulfilled a lifelong dream of stable founder Christopher Chenery and catapulted his daughter Penny Chenery into the national spotlight.
The Derby Day party will take place from 4-7 p.m. Tickets are $50, and complete festival and ticket information is available at VirginiaHorseFestival.com.
There also will be a free Kentucky Derby viewing party presented by the town of Bowling Green. From 2:30-7 p.m. Saturday, pre-race coverage and the Derby will be shown in the Farm Bureau Center on two 65-inch HDTVs. Derby-themed food and drinks will be available for purchase.
For Secretariat lovers, the festival offers tram tours of the historic grounds where the famous racehorse was born. There also will be a plethora of official Secretariat merchandise available in the exhibit hall. And fans may ask for autographs from Tweedy or Leeanne Ladin, co-authors of Secretariat’s Meadow – The Land, The Family, The Legend.
The festival also will include a wide variety of equine clinics, demonstrations and competitions. The JTO Trail Challenge will be open to competitors from across the state. Participants in this trail obstacle course will compete on Friday and Saturday, and the finale will be held Sunday.
This year’s horse festival is presented by Your Local Ford Dealer. The Canine Stars is sponsored by Virginia Farm Bureau Insurance.