It won't be clear until the last horse has gone home how many people bought tickets to Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games events, but organizers are pulling out the stops to make sure the crowds are big.
"We are now in event mode," spokeswoman Amy Walker said in an e-mail message. "With anticipated gate sales, and children under 12 who will be coming in free, our focus is now on reporting attendance figures each day."
Those daily attendance numbers will include thousands of people who are there because of the largesse of corporate sponsors, programs for schoolchildren and other initiatives.
At last count, as of Sept. 6, organizers reported ticket sales for competition events and general admission at 325,000, a far cry from the 500,000 tickets they'd hoped to sell.
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That's one reason title sponsor Alltech, the Nicholasville-based feed supplement company, stepped in. Alltech president Pearse Lyons said he read that ticket sales to the soccer World Cup in South Africa suffered because it was done online only.
"It might have been a mistake for us to do the same," he said. "You have to use all methods of communication."
That's why, in recent weeks, Alltech has started the following programs.
■ The company raised $1 million from its international business partners to bring in as many as 42,000 Kentucky schoolchildren from 20 counties.
■ This Sunday, during the endurance and reining competitions, students from Kentucky colleges and universities can get in free with their student IDs, courtesy of feed companies from around the world that have ponied up $10,000 each at Alltech's request.
■ The high-profile Commonwealth Club organized by Lyons asked people and businesses for $10,000 membership fees that guaranteed them $10,000 worth of tickets and other amenities.
According to Alltech, more than 200 people and businesses have signed up for some level of membership. Lyons' goal for the Commonwealth Club is to raise $3 million and move thousands of tickets.
Lyons also set up a toll-free number that ensures personal service, 1-888-934-2010.
Tickets also have been distributed to WEG sponsors, although apparently not in great numbers.
Corporate sponsor Fazoli's, which is serving 4,000 meals for volunteers, has held drawings at each of its 16 Lexington restaurants, giving away a total of 32 pairs of tickets.
"This is a unique chance to experience a true world-class sporting event, and Fazoli's is delighted to offer tickets to some of our guests," Carl Howard, CEO of Fazoli's, said earlier this month when the deal was announced.
Maker's Mark, which is sponsoring the VIP Bourbon Village at the Kentucky Horse Park, got some tickets for its clients, primarily to its own hospitality tent, spokeswoman Kirby Adams said.
Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, which is sponsoring the veterinary clinic at the Games, didn't get any tickets to give away, said Dr. Tom Riddle. "We received, as part of our sponsorship, a very limited number of tickets per day and hospitality passes per day," he said. "Those were all quickly taken care of."