Hoping to take advantage of any visiting shopaholics, several Central Kentucky shopping centers are rolling out expanded marketing plans and special exhibits during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Among the most ambitious is that of Fayette Mall, whose leaders have partnered with the Games to distribute "passports" with information being sent in advance to visitors. The passports include special offers and discounts, and descriptions of the mall's many stores. The booklets will be available at the mall for local customers, said the mall's general manager, Myron Worley.
The mall also has worked with Alltech to have an informational booth dedicated to the Games in addition to its normal customer service counters.
"We've gone out to the mall and said, 'What can we do to make people realize they're at a party?'" said Alltech President Pearse Lyons. "The reason for that is Aachen," the German city that was the site of the 2006 Games. "We went to Aachen, my wife and I, and we wouldn't have known the Games were on. You didn't see any signs, didn't see any merchandise to buy. ...
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"We have set the standard, raised the bar so high now, that all the future Games will have to be done in a totally different way."
Worley said the mall also plans to install signage that will use a variety of languages to direct foreign visitors to the booth.
"We're less concerned about getting a certain number of people out here than making a good experience for those who are coming," he said.
Among the special events that will be at the mall is a rehearsal performance by the Alltech-sponsored Haitian Harmony Choir on Oct. 2, in advance of the group's Oct. 4 performance with the Chieftains at the Singletary Center for the Arts.
Fayette Mall's shopping rival, Hamburg, which is closer to the Kentucky Horse Park, is not offering the same organized activities and marketing, but individual stores might be offering Games-related events as the 16-day event unfolds.
Todd Oldfield, a sales consultant with Globe Travel Network, said he has approached the shopping center's businesses about participating in a text-message marketing plan in which visitors for the Games can receive a list of Hamburg retailers and special offers.
Lexington Center promises a very visible display for visiting shoppers. The downtown shopping and entertainment complex will display 126 miniature wooden horses created by Central Kentucky students as a fund-raiser for the Kidney Health Alliance of Kentucky. Businesses have paid $500 to sponsor each horse.
"It was a perfect opportunity for both of us because they were looking for a place to showcase all 126 of the wooden horses under one roof, and we are always looking for creative ways to get people to come visit the shops," said Sheila Kenny, director of marketing for Lexington Center.
The center will also have a life-size horse cake on display. Members of the International Cake Exploration Societé will begin putting it together on site and in public view on Saturday.
And in case you're wondering: The cake is not edible. It uses glue in its construction, Kenny said.
Another very visible effort is being made by the city of Berea.
Two LexTran shuttles to and from the Horse Park will be wrapped entirely in eye-catching advertisements for Berea, said Belle Jackson, the city's executive director of tourism.
On the buses will be ambassadors from Berea, which touts itself as the "folk arts and crafts capital of Kentucky." They will play Appalachian music and tell tales of Appalachian legends and famous Berea residents. Jackson, who plays banjo, will be among them.
"We've tried to prepare ourselves everywhere we can to give Berea the visibility it deserves," Jackson said.