The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games had its highest attendance Tuesday, with 24,237 ticket holders, members of the media, volunteers and students. With beautiful weather and the finals of team dressage, the Games bested Saturday's opening day attendance of 23,081.
The Games serves plenty of Kentucky's favorite beverages — from Alltech's Bourbon Barrel and Kentucky Ales to Maker's Mark and Jim Beam bourbons. But visitors looking for authentic Kentucky food are out of luck, unless you count Papa John's pizza.
Buona Restaurant Group, which operates high-profile dining operations around the country, is catering the Games. The food is good, though pricey, but there is little evidence you are in Kentucky.
One section of the menu in the main spectators' food tent is labeled Kentucky specialties, with a fried chicken basket and a pulled-pork barbecue sandwich. The pork is not bad, but it is nothing like what you can get at any decent Kentucky barbecue joint. Other than that, you see black-bean-and-veggie wraps, Buffalo chicken wraps, chicken Caesar salad, made-to-order burritos, penne Alfredo and broccoli — you get the idea. That's too bad; a steaming cup of burgoo would taste mighty good on these chilly mornings.
First lady's lesson
First lady Jane Beshear had a one-on-one training session in reining with Tim McQuay, a member of the U.S. gold medal reining team.
"To think I had my very first lesson with a gold medal winner. I'm like a kid in a candy store," she said afterward.
Beshear is an avid horsewoman and has ridden in equestrian competitions in dressage, cross country and eventing for 16 years.
After the lesson, during which McQuay taught Beshear how to give the horse cues using her legs and body position, McQuay went to his barn and came back to give her a T-shirt with Hollywoodstinseltown in glittery letters across the front. That's the name of the horse McQuay rode as a member of the U.S. team.
Beshear said she also wants to get lessons in driving a team of horses and playing polo.
"I'm game to do anything," she said. "I'm out here every day. I don't want to miss a single thing."
Practice and shopping
Three members of the Japanese eventing team strolled the Kentucky Horse Park on Tuesday afternoon after practicing in the main arena in the morning.
Kazuhiro Iwatani, the chef d'equipe, or manager, of the team had a simple answer when asked what they were doing.
"Shopping," he said.
About that time, he looked up to see his three team members ducking into the large tent of Bit of Britain, filled with enticing equine merchandise, including boots and saddles.
Excusing himself, Iwatani said quickly: "I must go," almost as if he had to make sure the Japanese federation didn't get stuck with a very large bill.
An unscientific poll
In a totally unscientific poll with a very wide margin of error, the Herald-Leader is ready to declare that the Games are bringing people in from all over.
During two hours at the Herald-Leader booth at the Horse Park's Trade Fair, a reporter spoke to folks from Texas, Washington, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, Indiana, New Mexico, New York, Arkansas, Illinois, Canada and South Africa.
A few locals stopped by, too. Mike Cooper, director of travel for the Kentucky Department of Tourism, said The Kentucky Experience pavilions are going great.
"There is not a thing I would change," he said. Particularly popular is the bourbon and wine tasting area.
Then there was Paul Messner of Dry Ridge, an über-volunteer who is helping set up awards ceremonies and translating for Russian athletes. His parents moved to the States in the 1950s but wanted to make sure their son kept their native language. He hasn't had to do too much translating but expects it will pick up later in the week.
"I hated it when my parents sent me to Russian school, but they always said it would come in handy someday."
Mayor Jim Newberry is encouraging people to come downtown and watch the Games competitions live on a jumbo video screen at the CentrePointe lot. A schedule is available at Lexingtonky.gov. Click on festival events.
Food vendors open each day at 11 a.m., and downtown restaurants are serving brown bag specials.
From 4 to 11 p.m. daily in Cheapside Park, half-price tickets are on sale for the following day's events at the Games.
Thirty thousand has been a good number for the Games. Churchill Downs loaned the Games 30,000 green metal folding chairs for members of the media, officials and guests. And on Saturday, 30,000 pounds of food was composted as part of a composting program, Games officials said.