The welcome-bienvenue-willkommen banners are up, the Horse Park has turned into a vista of white tents, and downtown streets are, well, nearly clear of construction as Lexington prepares to welcome thousands of visitors starting Saturday for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
In the Kentucky Horse Park's main stadium, a troupe of black Friesian stallions pranced together in perfect synchronicity Monday as they practiced for the opening ceremony on Saturday night. They appeared calm despite the roar of tractors delivering bushes around the rings as technicians plugged in sound systems high above their heads.
"We're getting it all together," said Everett McCorvey, the University of Kentucky opera director who is producing the opening ceremony. "The horses practice during the day, and the humans practice every evening."
Sprinklers showered the dry earth of the driving stadium, while around the corner at the start of the endurance course, huge potted palm trees waited to be placed around the pavilion of Meydan, the Dubai company that is sponsoring the 100-mile endurance event on Sunday.
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Meanwhile on Monday, city officials unveiled banners that will be hung on Newtown Pike and Versailles Road to welcome visitors in 12 languages.
The banners are 2 feet by 8 feet and in a dozen colors. Lexington landmarks are featured on one side, with "welcome" on the other. More than 50 countries will be represented at the Games.
Urban County Councilwoman Cheryl Feigel, chairwoman of the Corridors Commission, said the banners "show some Kentucky hospitality to visitors from around the world."
There will be 32 banners on Newtown Pike and 14 on Versailles Road. The two streets are key entrances to downtown for visitors coming to the city for the Games. Newtown Pike still bears marks of recent construction, including orange traffic cones confining traffic to one lane at West Main Street. State Transportation Cabinet spokeswoman Natasha Lacy said the roads will be cone-free by the opening of WEG on Saturday.
Still up in the air is what will happen to the large pile of dirt and construction debris from the Newtown Pike extension project. It is sitting on the R.J. Corman property at Oliver Lewis Way and West Main Street. Earlier this month, Lexington officials said that the Nicholasville-based company planned to use the dirt to level a corner of the Corman property at the intersection and that they hoped the work would be done before the Games begin.
Downtown, flagpoles have been taken down at the courthouse plaza so views of the main stage for Spotlight Lexington entertainment will not be blocked.
Spotlight spokeswoman Krista Greathouse said removal and replacement of the poles will cost about $10,000, which comes from the Spotlight Lexington budget, meaning no taxpayer money was used. Greathouse said a temporary pole in the plaza is flying the Kentucky and U.S. flags, and the other flagpoles will be returned after the Games.
The Kentucky Horse Park buzzed with last-minute painting, hammering and wiring, all while hundreds of horses prepared for the Games or the opening ceremony.
"Our operations team is working like crazy," said Amy Walker, spokeswoman for the Games. "The horses are here, the training is under way, and come Saturday, everything is going to be in place."
Walker also said the dressage freestyle and individual finals in vaulting are now sold out. The dressage freestyle, which is dressage set to music, will be performed in front of 25,000 spectators.
The gardens designed by Kentucky native Jon Carloftis are almost finished at both the Kentucky Experience and Alltech Experience pavilions. In the trade show area, empty tents sit waiting for the merchandise to arrive during the next few days.