There’s little doubt equestrians will flock to Secretariat’s birthplace in Caroline County this weekend for this year’s Virginia Horse Festival. But organizers are hoping new additions will attract more than just horse lovers.
Billed as an event where there is something for everyone, the festival running from May 3-5 at Meadow Event Park will include canine capers to equine entertainment, pony setting, a Secretariat salute, a Derby Day party and a new Derby Dash 5K race.
“This family-friendly event will be educational, entertaining and celebratory as well, giving nod to the property’s horse-racing legacy,” Stuart Sanders, the festival’s event manager, said in a press release.
A prime example: the Aurora equestrian circus, a 30-minute performance that includes aerialists, comedians, dancers, singers and trick riders on top of the “horse extravaganza” performance by Legacy Family Entertainment.
Not all the spotlight, however, will be reserved for horses. The Canine Stars, where rescued and adopted dogs show off their talents from freestyle disc catching to high jumping, will give three performances daily. One of the dogs and its trainer, Sara Carson and Hero, made it to the finals of “America’s Got Talent” in 2017.
Younger festivalgoers will have the Hokie Horse Education Station and a daily story time with children’s author Susan Williamson.
But it wouldn’t be the Virginia Horse Festival without the signature events honoring the legendary Secretariat. The inaugural Derby Dash 5K and 1-mile walk will allow participants to gallop on the same grounds where Secretariat and other famous horses once ran. Proceeds will go toward rebuilding the recently burned Beaverdam Equestrian Center and to projects of the newly announced Secretariat Heritage Center. The festival also offers tram tours of the historic grounds where the famous racehorse was born.
In addition, Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of Secretariat owner Penny Chenery, will premiere “Remembering Riva Ridge,” a film produced by her brother John Tweedy. Riva Ridge was Secretariat’s older stablemate and was the first Meadow Stable horse to win the Derby.
For Kentucky Derby fans, 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.