Winter Equestrian FEstival: A Lifestyle Destination
The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) has become the pinnacle of the “equestrian lifestyle destination,” something that Equestrian Sport Productions (ESP) CEO Mark Bellissimo set as a goal years ago. “We want to bring equestrian sport and PBIEC to the local community and the surrounding South Florida area,” he says.
The beautiful Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington becomes the center of the equestrian world each winter with this amazing sport and fun events the whole family can enjoy. The 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) held on the Main Grounds of PBIEC, which runs until March 29, welcomes top riders from 33 countries and 50 states with a focus on show jumping (an Olympic sport) and show hunters. WEF also hosts the “Saturday Night Lights” series of events.
The Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF), held during the same 12 weeks (through March 29), has seven major events at The Stadium at PBIEC, features the Olympic sport of dressage with the entertaining musical freestyles during their “Friday Night Stars” series.
PBIEC is considered the most recognizable equestrian sporting venue in the United States. It encompasses a total of 500 acres, and the competition rings alone cover over 80 acres. PBIEC has two core facilities containing over 18 competition arenas, including one derby field and the largest covered arena in the world.
With innovative classes at WEF like the crowd-pleasing Battle of the Sexes, where the men compete against the women; the Hollow Creek Farm Children’s/Junior/Young Rider FEI Nations Cups, where young riders from all over the world learn about team competition (Feb. 28); the Great Charity Challenge (Feb. 7); the FEI Nations Cup team event (Feb. 27); and the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix (Mar. 28), there is never a dull moment.
The Great Charity Challenge, presented by Fidelity Investments, is an exciting pro-am show jumping event that has raised more than $6.2 million for over 100 Palm Beach County charities over the past five years, becoming the largest single-day net charitable event in the state of Florida.
Housed at PBIEC, The Palm Beach Riding Academy also offers the chance for beginners to learn to ride and offers a cost-effective way to enter equestrian sport. Even if you have never ridden a horse before, lessons at PBRA are a great way to learn. “Regional residents are encouraged to check out the PBRA and see what the sports is all about,” says Bellissimo.
WEF and AGDF draw the elite equestrian riders from around the world. International and Olympic equestrians join to compete and thrill spectators with their pageantry and athleticism. Thousands of passionate equestrians and tens of thousands of enthusiastic spectators visit the venue annually. British show jumper and World Number One Scott Brash stated, “(It is) a fantastic tour here, and now with Rolex sponsoring, it really brings the prestige of the show up to a top standard of high level sport.”
There are a number of hospitality and vendor pavilions dedicated to dining, shopping and VIP areas. At WEF, there are 1,500 grandstand seats, 80 VIP boxes, private chalets and hospitality pavilions that surround the International Arena, providing up-close views for all spectators. If visitors prefer a relaxed environment with delightful tropical décor, the Tiki Hut is a must, or they can sit up close and personal at Beachside. The show even has its own chic South Beach-type lounge, The Gallery.
The “Saturday Night Lights” celebrations at the Main Grounds include not only an exciting grand prix, but live music, performances, a children’s fair, a Venetian carousel, and even sky divers. Fine art is available to view or purchase throughout the show grounds.
General admission is free (except on the night of the Great Charity Challenge, ticket sales go towards the Palm Beach County charities), and parking is $20 per car on Saturday nights only.
Palm Beach International Equestrian Center is dedicated to providing a first-class experience for exhibitors and spectators alike. For more information on the Winter Equestrian Festival, visit www.equestriansport.com. To find out more about the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, go to www.globaldressagefestival.com.