The 48th annual Atlanta Steeplechase saw a brand-new addition this year in the form of Bartow Villiage, a pavillion featuring the best of Bartow County and what it has to offer.
Organized by the Chamber of Commerce, Bartow Village was designed to showcase the community’s rich history and growing future.
“The purpose of the Bartow Village is to bring our community together, and I would say [the Atlanta Steeplechase] is a great front porch [for our community],” said Joe Frank Harris Jr., President and CEO of Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce. “... It’s so nice to know that, as a community, as a chamber, that we’ve done our dead-level best to go out there and get the 20,000 visitors that came into Bartow County to come back, and see us and spend some money while they’re here.
“So far we’ve exceeded all of our goals. This back stretch, nothing was here last year. So, we have completely filled it up with visitors from out-of-town. Just seeing the business community coming out and then seeing all the visitors from out-of-town come through we have [really] exceeded all of our goals. We just feel blessed.”
The Bartow Village was comprised of 11 tents, located between the second and third turns on Kingston Downs’ back stretch. Out-of town visitors, as well as local guests, were able to explore what Bartow County offers. The Chamber of Commerce tent, Team Bartow, acted as the village’s mothering tent spotlighting Tellus Museum, the Booth Western Art Museum, the Department of Natural Resources, Red Top Mountain and the Etowah Indian Mounds in hopes of putting Bartow County on the map.
“I just think it’s so incredibly awesome to see all these people in one place, having fun and getting to know each other,” said Tina Brush, a chamber board member. “Also, I’ve seen quite a number of people that have come from the other side, from Virgina. A lot of people that have come over here and never would have known who we were, which I think is neat.
“A lot of our chamber members have business because of this event today, all the food. We had a member of Blue Ridge join; the cupcake people, they’re from Blue Ridge but their cupcakes won the cupcake war. I guess that’s some TV show. [They] actually had their cupcakes at the pre-party and joined our chamber. This chamber is very proactive about not only making the community stronger, but bringing in the cash register for all the business that are members. The food vendors that are here joined the chamber to participate in this. And one of them, I think it’s Moore’s Market, had, I heard, multiple catering contracts as a result of this event and picked up additional contracts because they learned of him through catering this. That’s what a chamber should do, you know, help other businesses become stronger and it’s fun. You know, you’re always saying, ‘Do business or give me money, sponsor this,’ but this, people can get together and just have fun being together.”
Team Bartow hosted their own hat contest, welcomed the Taste of the Chase food court, spotlighting a few of Bartow’s restaurants and with Johnny on the Spot as their sponsor, and was able to headline Atlanta Rhythm Section at the post-race concert. Some participants in the Team Bartow hat contest also competed in the Steeplechase hat parade, hosted by Von Maur.
“We enjoy so much that the ladies get to share their hats with the entire Steeplechase,” said Trish Hill, the founder and chairwoman of the hat contest. “That just brings a smile to my heart, because I love hats and I love people who can enjoy them.”
Ladies of all ages showed off their unique hats during the annual hat parade. Feathers, streamers, horses, tulle, and trophies are a few items that were used to embellish the sun hats. Most beautiful, most whimsical and best children’s hat were the three categories in which the hats were judged.
“We try to judge them on creativity, general overall beauty or whimsical and somehow at least more than three stand out,” said Hill. “Then the tough part is trying to pick the three winners, because really there are so many winners but we only have three spots. All first place got a $100 gift certificate to Von Maur. Second place got a $75 gift certificate and then $50 for third.”
Along with a gift certificate, in true Steeplechase fashion, a blue ribbon was awarded to the first-place winner in each category.
The 435-acre Kingston Downs complex brought 20,000 people to the annual Bartow County event. Gates opened at 9 a.m. with the first race beginning at 1:15 p.m. Other events throughout the day included the Jack Russel Terrier races, Atlanta Peoplechase 5K, an air show and skydive demonstration, Parade of Bear Creek Hounds and a lap around the track by the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Proceeds from the event went to the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.