LUMBERTON — Up to 500 horses could be trotting into town today for the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center’s first three-day event — and carrying riders who are expected to spend money at county restaurants, hotels and gasoline stations.
“We hope to see three to five hundred horses,” said Cecil Jackson, vice president of Border Belt Horseman’s Association. “We’re very excited about them coming and staying with us — and sharing the new arena with them.”
The event, named “Cowboy Up,” is sponsored by the association as well as the North Carolina Horse Council and is free to the public. Supporters are saying the event could be a $1 million boost to the local economy.
The event will kick off at 6 p.m. with a barrel-racing exhibition. Competitive barrel racing, roping, and ranch sorting, all with cash prizes, cowdog and cutting-horse demonstrations and a “Cowboy Church” service will also be a part of the event.
Temporary horse stalls have been constructed under the awning of the facility’s open-air farmers market and will be available to rent for the weekend for $50 each. Proceeds from the event will go toward the installation of permanent horse stalls, a project that could cost up to $650,000 and one that association and council members hope will bring more multi-day events to the newly-renamed center.
“It’s really important for us to have horse stalls so we can have weekend events,” Jackson said. “That will boost the economy as far as people buying fuel, shopping, food and motels.”
“If we don’t have the stalls, they’re not going to come for more than a one-day show. They’ll come Saturday morning and leave Saturday night. It’s very important for us to have the stalls for the weekend events.”
Located near exit 13A on Interstate 95, the facility, previously known as the Southeastern Agricultural Center and Farmers Market, was recently re-renamed and assigned a new logo that the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer services says will reflect the center’s larger appeal as an events destination.
For a full schedule of this weekend’s event, visit southernhorsefestival.com and click the “Cowboy Up” link.