Augusta Futurity show chairman William S. Morris III rang the cowbell Tuesday morning, his traditional welcome to the Champions Club Roundup.
At the Morris Museum of Art, Morris thanked futurity officials, sponsors and volunteers. He also discussed several popular events of the 34th annual show, which will be Jan. 20-26 at James Brown Arena.
Morris said equine events around the country have suffered – some have closed – over the past four years. While the economy continues to limp along, the Augusta Futurity remains a constant. The 2012 futurity featured 476 entries with competitors from 27 states and Australia, Canada and Venezuela.
“We’ve found a way to keep the Augusta Futurity going,” said Morris, the chairman and chief executive officer of Morris Communications Co. and publisher of The Augusta Chronicle. “I’m delighted to report to you we’re going to have a great show this year. I feel very good about where we are.”
The Augusta Futurity brings to town a Western mystique, Morris said, prevalent in today’s society. The National Cutting Horse Association event, the largest cutting show east of the Mississippi River, also has brought in $200 million over more than three decades. Each January, the event brings in an estimated 10,000 people who spend money at local hotels, restaurants and retail stores.
Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree arrived at the Champions Club Roundup to a warm welcome from Morris and the packed crowd at the museum.
“Let’s give our new sheriff a hand,” Morris said. “We’re delighted you could be with us. Thank you so much for coming.
“Sheriff, I’ll have to see to it that you get a cowboy hat.”
Roundtree responded: “I’ll need it, too.”
The biggest competition in the Augusta Futurity is the second annual Mercuria NCHA World Series of Cutting. Competitors in the Open and Non-Pro classes will vie for a share of the $50,000 in added money – $25,000 per class. The go-rounds will be held Jan. 23, while the finals take place Jan. 24.
The Mercuria NCHA World Series of Cutting is making the Augusta Futurity its first stop on its 2013 circuit. The event, which is open to horses of all ages, is expected to again bring high scores from competitors. In 2012, Phil Rapp and his 7-year-old mare, Dont Look Twice, set an arena record with a score of 231.
“It was an asset to the Augusta Futurity,” Morris said. “It helped us tremendously. It brought more horses and more cutters here.
“I’m delighted we’re having it again.”
The USC Aiken Benefit Bull Riding Championship kicks off the show Jan. 19. On Jan. 26, the annual horse sale and Wrangler Family Fun Fest return. The fun fest, a free event that features live music and a petting zoo, will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Seventh Street Plaza side of James Brown Arena. At 4 p.m., the opening ceremonies will be held before the Futurity Non-Pro and Futurity finals.