LUMBERTON — The new pavilion at the N.C. Southeastern Agricultural Center/Farmers Market is going to attract horse enthusiasts from far and wide to Lumberton, said Robeson County Commissioner Tom Taylor, a former horse owner and competitor in equestrian events.
“This is going to be a big plus for the county,” Taylor said as he watched several horses and riders make their way around the arena during Friday’s open house. “I’ve been saying for years that this kind of facility will help promote tourism. People just don’t know how much money this will bring into the county.”
The open house and barrel racing competition, sponsored by the Borderbelt Horseman’s Association, were the first events to be held in a facility that will be used for horse and livestock shows, and other events, such as trade shows, concerts, weddings, family reunions and corporate events. A pre-engineered steel structure about 50,000 square feet in size, the building has a dirt floor for equestrian and livestock events. A covering, to eventually be replaced by a permanent portable floor system, can be placed over the dirt to allow for other uses.
“This is unbelievable,” state Sen. Michael Walters said. “This is a world class facility right here in Robeson County. Now we can create and market the agricultural center as a tourist destination site.”
Lumberton Area Visitors Bureau Executive Director Mickey Gregory also believes the pavilion will draw tourists to Lumberton.
“This is really going to bring in the people. This is just great,” she said. “There are just unlimited things that can be held here. It just makes your heart smile.”
The pavilion arena is perfect for horse barrel racing, said Nancy Clark, of Winston-Salem, and Debby Lewis, of High Point. Both have participated in the sport for years. They told The Robesonian that the facility is sure to attract barrel racers from across the country.
“They are getting started right here,” Clark said of the building’s construction. “This building is perfect.”
The arena’s ground is just right for barrel racing, Lewis said. With ground firm enough that a horse will not stumble, there will never be a problem drawing barrel racers to the arena.
‘“If the ground is right, the people will come,” Lewis said.
The open house wasn’t just about horses. Free refreshments were served, and potters Jim Tripp and Shawn Gibson demonstrated the art of horse-hair pottery firing.
Borderbelt Horseman’s Association Vice President Cecil Jackson said he was pleased with the number of people who came to the open house. He was hoping that 100 to 150 horses would participate in Friday’s barrel racing event and hoped a couple hundred horses would participate in today’s all-day horse show, sponsored by the Borderbelt Horseman’s Association.
Even people not particularly fond of horse-related activities couldn’t help but get caught up in the enthusiasm of Friday’s pavilion open house.
“I’m not a horse enthusiast, but I like to see people having fun,” county Commissioner Jerry Stephens said as he watched horses and riders, many of them young people, testing out the new arena. “All these people seem to be having fun. Maybe I should get myself a horse.”
The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services oversaw the pavilion’s construction and will manage the completed facility.
“This was a good project and will serve the purpose of getting more people to the site,” Kent Yelverton, director of the department’s Division of Property and Construction, recently told The Robesonian. “We felt this is unique to the community and will provide the amenities the community needs.”
The official dedication of the pavilion, located off U.S. Highway 74, is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday. State Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler is expected to attend.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or email@example.com.