With the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games now history, Kentuckians should applaud the visionaries who made this event possible by creating the only park in the world dedicated to the horse: John R. Gaines conceived the idea, William G. Kenton led the effort and Govs. Wendell H. Ford and Julian Carroll and former Horse Park Commission and foundation members gave time and money and supported its dedicated staff through the lean years.
For bringing the 2010 Games to Kentucky, we must thank Govs. Ernie Fletcher and Steve Beshear and particularly Jim Host, John Nicholson, John Long, Terry Johnson, Jamie Link, Mayor Jim Newberry, Princess Haya bint al-Hussein and first lady Jane Beshear.
Thanks also to the over 6,000 volunteer workers who gave countless hours of free time. To the merchants who made everything more interesting. To local and state police, fire, rescue and ambulance staff who were ready on a moment's notice. And, we must thank the fellow who believed in Kentucky, Lexington, the Horse Park and that the dream could be a reality: Alltech founder Pearse Lyons, who stepped up big time.
Kentuckians and guests from around the world enjoyed fall in Kentucky and hospitality at its best. Everett McCorvey, the University of Kentucky Orchestra, Wynonna Judd, the Haitian Harmony children's choir, hundreds of singers and performers, volunteers, who joined the world's greatest horses and riders at the opening event were absolutely world class. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with Maestro Gustavo Dudamel performed at a once in a lifetime event at Centre College.
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Spotlight Lexington in downtown was a huge success with an estimated 175,000 attendees.
Downtown is the best it has been in many years, successful because of the support of government, business leaders and local citizens. We need to keep the Spotlight Lexington attitude and events going downtown on a year-round basis. The old cliché that downtown is everybody's downtown should become a reality, just as it did for three great weeks.
Downtowns struggled with the advent of the suburban shopping malls which caused local retailers to close or move. Our revitalization was brought to you by former Mayor Fred Fugazzi, the Urban Renewal Board, Garvice Kincaid, W. E. Burnett, W. T. Young, Alex Campbell, the Triangle Foundation, the Downtown Lexington Corporation, as well as subsequent mayors and various business and banking leaders. Many have worked for years to help bring our downtown back to life.
The recent streetscape improvements would not have occurred but for WEG and Newberry's determination. New housing, retailers, bars, restaurants, parks and public events are happening every month.
The Horse Park is positioned to grow an already impressive series of events and shows, but now on a year-round basis. Our support for the park, its management and employees must not wane. We have a great investment in this park, and it must be supported.
The Games have given us a visionary corporate partner via a homegrown business. Alltech is a global enterprise that was relatively unknown when Lyons committed $10 million to attract the WEG five years ago. To make the Games the success that they were, he continued that financial commitment several times over. This family man truly cares about this community and about children.
Lyons places a true focus on education, whether it was insuring many local area school children were able to attend the games or bringing the Haitian children's choir here. We are fortunate that this remarkable Irishman chose Kentucky and Lexington as his adopted home when he could have built Alltech anywhere. We should thank Lyons and his wife, Deirdre, in a major way for the impact they and their 1,600 employees have had on this community.
Did the games live up to expectations? The answer is a resounding "yes." WEG opened the eyes of the world to our wonderful community; over 500,000 people attended the various events. It has caused us to be proud of our state and region.
Sure, everything was not perfect. Some negativists will continue to make the glass half-empty rather than half-full. Not everything could be anticipated as plans developed over five years. The world economy affected the economics to some degree. With hindsight, some decisions might have been different.
This effort was an attempt to make something really good happen for the horse industry of the world and for Kentucky. Let's remember that and focus on the positives. Hours of NBC television coverage were worth millions to our tourism and business efforts, as well as to the image of Lexington.
Continuous accolades of the announcers describing "beautiful Lexington, Ky.," the "magnificent Kentucky Horse Park" and the "unprecedented hospitality" were priceless.
Thank you, Lexington. Thanks, Kentucky. Thanks to all the visionaries, workers, volunteers, taxpayers and participants who helped us get to where we are today.
Now, what are we going to do next?