East Dorset, Vermont — During the Vermont Summer Festival Horse Show, held July 9 through August 17 at the Harold Beebe Farm in East Dorset, VT, it’s not uncommon to see the foot traffic through the nearby village of Manchester clad in breeches and paddock boots. Nearly 3,000 people associated with the six-week horse show stay in and around the Manchester area, and they are welcomed by local businesses with open arms.
“This is our first year here,” said Elizabeth Hazelton, manager of Betsey Johnson. “It’s a great way to appeal to our demographic. Business has been phenomenal; far beyond expectation.”
Though the trendy clothing line for girls and women celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, the Betsey Johnson retail store only recently opened its location in the Manchester Designer Outlets. But Hazelton has seen great success already, due in large part to the horse show and its patrons.
Tom Lenz, manager of the local Hickey Freeman Bobby Jones retail store, noted excellent business in parallel to the Vermont Summer Festival as well.
“We’ve been coming here for three years, and being able to present at the show is a definite plus,” said Lenz, who operates a retail booth on-site at the horse show. The retail booth offers a sophisticated line of men’s and women’s clothing and the luxurious Peruvian cotton half-zip polo shirts have proven to be his best sellers. “They’re perfect for Vermont weather,” Lenz said. “Plus everyone here understands what fine tailoring is all about.”
He also noted that his location in the patron’s tent, overlooking the grand prix stadium, is akin having “the best seat in the house.”
Like Lenz, the innkeepers at Palmer House, located on Historic Route 7A in Manchester, welcome the competitors, horse enthusiasts, and their friends and families each year.
“We are always very happy to have everyone in town,” said Peter Boll, who owns Palmer House with his wife, Angelica Wallach. He has run the inn for 25 years and said the people who come for the show are among his most respectable and fun clients. “They know the value of the hospitality we offer. They always respect the property and everyone who makes their stay pleasant.”
Since it’s normally early to rise for riders, grooms, and their respective families, the Spiral Press Café has seen an increase in traffic as well, especially for morning pick-me-ups and afternoon wind-downs. The café, which is attached to the Northshire Bookstore, opened in Manchester in 2003.
“There’s usually a good amount of teenagers who come by in the morning for coffee and pastries,” said Maureen O’Neil, who owns the café. “But all through out the day, we see people of all ages wearing their riding clothes coming through for pastries or sandwiches and just to relax. It’s always great for the community, especially with the way the economy has been.”
Jay Hathaway, Executive Director of the Manchester & The Mountains Chamber of Commerce, agreed, saying, “We love the horse show and our businesses love it! We wouldn’t be the community we are without the Vermont Summer Festival. And it’s very affordable. The admission fee to watch the horse show is all about supporting learning, enjoying the ambiance of these amazing athletes, and supporting the community.”
The Vermont Summer Festival continues through August 17. Competition is held daily Wednesday through Sunday, beginning at 8 a.m. and running until approximately 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children Wednesday through Saturday. On ‘Grand Prix Sunday’, admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children. All gate proceeds are donated to the Friends Foundation for MEMS, benefiting programs in the local Elementary & Middle School.
New England’s largest “AA” rated hunter/jumper horse show, the Vermont Summer Festival offers over $750,000 in prize money, making it the richest sporting event in the state of Vermont. Visit the Vermont Summer Festival website for more information, including full results.