Fans watched the action from the back of truck beds. Players, many who had just finished a grueling day's work, laced up their cleats and weathered the late June heat and the rains of an unexpected summer storm.
By day, they work to help Central Kentucky's mighty thoroughbreds compete against each other on the track. But for a few days in late June, they were the competitors on the pitch.
While soccer teams from across the globe vied for World Cup gold in Brazil, Lexington's own Dixiana Farms was home to its own impassioned futbol rivalry: The Third Annual Thoroughbred Farm Soccer Tournament, hosted and presented by Dixiana Farm June 22 to 28.
Eight teams, representing horse farms across Central Kentucky, competed for bragging rights and an altruistic cause, with an estimated $7,000 in proceeds raised benefitting Blue Grass Farm Charities, a human services nonprofit supporting workers and farm managers in the Central Kentucky Thoroughbred industry.
Blue Grass Farm Charities president Mary Lee-Butte said a majority of the proceeds raised will go to funding the organization's back-to-school program, which provides school supplies, backpacks and shoes to low-income children of local thoroughbred industry workers.
Butte said the event not only raises much-needed funds, but also brings the diverse horse industry community together through a shared passion: soccer.
"We've got a multi-cultural work force in the thoroughbred industry, we have a lot of Europeans, a lot of Hispanics, and South Americans," Butte said. "Soccer is so popular in those countries, and of course it's gaining popularity here.
"We just thought, what would be a fun way to offer an opportunity for people to come together for recreation and fellowship and raise some funds."
Butte said the event offers the opportunity for camaraderie and bonding often not possible while industry workers are on the clock.
"We have farm and business industry owners who are also playing with the guys who groom the horses and muck the stalls, it's an opportunity for them to play together, mingle together, meet, that they might not otherwise have," Butte said. "It's really a way to bring the community together. Everybody out on that soccer field is an equal. Nobody is an owner, nobody is a manager, they're all just soccer players and that's what's really cool."
St. George Sales Farm took home the title this year, defeating host Dixiana Farms 4-0 in the finals.
Dixiana Farms business manager Dennis Brawner said the competition is not taken lightly by participating teams.
"It's very intense, these teams are very competitive. You look out here a lot of these guys have played college and professionally," Brawner said. "There's just a wide variety of players out here and they take it seriously. They practice weeks before the tournament and a lot of these guys play in leagues throughout the year."
Dixiana Farms bookkeeper and midfielder Glenna Laureano said win or lose it was fun to do some rare bonding with employees outside of work.
"We really enjoy doing it because it brings us all together," she said. "Sometimes we don't get to see each other, unless we're at the sale and some of these guys are on the farm all the time. It's nice to get out and see everybody's faces."
Sam Osborne: (859) 231-3308. Twitter: @samo430.