The steeplechase draws some 20,000 visitors each year, most of them from out of town, and chamber President and CEO Joe Frank Harris Jr. hopes to see the event make a greater impact on local businesses. To do so, the chamber has partnered with the Atlanta Steeplechase to create an area of the race track that brings Bartow County businesses together.
Stakeing out a prime location as horse and rider comes out of turn two, the chamber has established Bartow Village at the Atlanta Steeplechase as a community gathering for communal and private tents representing local business and industry.
“Our objective is to pool together Bartow County businesses,” Harris said. “The steeplechase is six hours that you can sit on the front porch with folks and build relationships. We’ve always said that if you start relationships, trust follows and commerce is right behind.
“If you bring industrial prospects and show them our community — we can take them to LakePoint Sports’ tent, NorthSide Bank, CHN — then they walk through our Team Bartow tent. When they see our community on display they’ll fall in love with it. I think it’s going to be really good for industrial recruiting because they’ll see the teamwork in this community.”
Outside of community-wide economic development, Harris sees the steeplechase as an opportunity to capitalize on exposure to an outside audience. Rather than marketing Bartow County in Atlanta, the chamber looks to increase local promotion while Atlanta guests are in town.
“I also look at the steeplechase and see 20,000 customers coming into Bartow County that’s not leaving enough money,” Harris said. “So this year, as you come off the interstate, you’ll have signs that say ‘Welcome to Bartow County.’”
Other signs will be on display as visitors make their way through town. This year, chamber members are asked to help in the promotion of Bartow County.
To do this, the chamber will host a community tent at the center of Bartow Village. A 1,600-square-foot tent will play host to chamber members purchasing a designated Bartow Village ticket for this year’s event. The Bartow Village ticket will grant guests access the Team Bartow tent, in which the Taste of the Chase will take visitors on a culinary tour of Bartow County. Restaurants from communities throughout the county will offer samples of their work at the center of the Bartow Village.
“When you walk into the tent, you’ll have an Adairsville section, a Cartersville section and a Euharlee section and you’ll experience the food of that city,” Harris said. “You’ll have Chef Lee from the Adairsville Inn and Johnny Mitchell from Johnny Mitchell’s Smokehouse in Euharlee and you’ll be able to get samples from their restaurants.”
Outside the Team Bartow tent will be individual tents from businesses across the county. Tents and parking passes are packaged and sold by the chamber for businesses to take part in the steeplechase festivities. While the Team Bartow tent will be open to anyone who purchases a Bartow Village event ticket, corporate tents within the Bartow Village will have the option of opening their tent to Bartow Village guests for promotion and marketing of their business or to designate their tent as a private party strictly for their guests.
The Bartow Village also will seek to offer options for families attending the race. The Team Bartow tent will not serve alcohol and will be a family-friendly environment, while corporate tents within Bartow Village will be free to provide or allow beverages of their choice.
Bartow Village guests attending the Atlanta Steeplechase with hopes of viewing the race will have access to private grandstands situated atop a knoll in front of three jumps with views of the entire track.
Beyond Bartow Village, at least one local business will make their presence known to all visitors, as the Terry Reid Hyundai Equus will this year replace Mercedes Benz as the official car of the Atlanta Steeplechase.
The chamber looks forward to increasing their efforts surrounding the annual event as volunteers on the organizing committee work in coordination with the Atlanta Steeplechase Board of Directors. Their liaison is Cartersville native Gene Vance, owner of Homestead Properties, and a longstanding board member of the steeplechase who had a hand in bringing the race to Bartow County in 1997.
“I’ve been involved with the Atlanta Steeplechase for a long time, several years before it came to Bartow,” Vance said. “I personally knew the two men that started it and they’re the ones that deserve the praise because this has been a charitable event for a number of years.
“Two Atlanta businessmen, George Chase and John Wayt, got together and started it for charity. We all worked together to find a site to move it because a highway had planned to go right through the site. We looked at areas all around Atlanta and we found this site and negotiated an agreement over a period of time to use this property for the event.”
Benefiting from this year’s steeplechase will be Camp Southern Ground and the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. While the Atlanta Steeplechase is home to about 20,000 guests each year, organizers hope to see that number increase so that giving may increase accordingly.
Though he makes an effort to remain neutral as an Atlanta Steeplechase board member, Vance noted that the current track lies within both Floyd and Bartow County and is glad to see both communities making efforts to benefit from the annual event.
“In serving with the Atlanta Steeplechase, I’ve worked with Rome and Bartow,” Vance said. “I love both communities, I’m a part of both communities and at the steeplechase we welcome all communities.
“Rome has done a good job in getting exposure from the event, but the steeplechase is an event on the county line serving both counties and the majority of people do come through Cartersville to get to it. So now Cartersville is working to make the most of that.”
General admission Bartow Village tickets are $35 and can be purchased at West End Commons, Terry Reid Hyundai, NorthSide Bank and the chamber of commerce. Tent packages with tickets and parking passes range in size and cost from $3,300 to $20,000. For more information, visit the chamber at 122 W. Main St., Cartersville, or call 770-382-1466 with questions.