At the annual Champions Club Roundup, Morris said the National Cutting Horse Association event has brought an economic impact of $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.
The Augusta Futurity allows locals the opportunity to participate in the Western experience. And while other futurities are dying off because of the poor economy, the Augusta Futurity is alive and well, Morris said.
“We think this is the finest cutting show east of the Mississippi River,” he said. “To sustain a show for 33 years is quite an accomplishment in itself. A lot of shows haven’t made it through this crunch, but we have. And we’re going to continue to do that.”
At the Augusta Futurity kickoff meeting at the Morris Museum of Art, Morris thanked futurity officials, sponsors and volunteers. He also discussed three new events for the futurity, which runs Jan. 21-28.
The biggest competition is the Mercuria NCHA World Series of Cutting, a newcomer to the Augusta Futurity. 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 Mercuria NCHA World Series of Cutting is making the Augusta Futurity its first stop on its season-long 2012 circuit. The event, which begins Jan. 24 and is open to horses of all ages, is expected to bring high scores from competitors.
On Jan. 25, longtime Augusta Futurity competitor Mel Blount, an NFL hall of famer from the Pittsburgh Steelers, will hold a clinic at 5 p.m.. Blount will hold a cutting demonstration before giving an inspirational speech to students.
“This is a win-win for everybody,” Morris said. “We think a lot of young people will enjoy hearing Mel talk about his life and his success.”
The futurity will hold Augusta Warrior Night on Jan. 27 to honor the military. A group of 3,000 retired and active-duty military personnel will be in attendance, along with the Fort Gordon Signal Corps Band.
This year’s Augusta Futurity also features many popular standards. The USC Aiken Benefit Bull Riding Championship kicks off the show Jan. 21. On Jan. 28, the annual horse sale returns after a one-year absence. Also on Jan. 28, the Wrangler Family Fun Fest, a free event that features live music and a petting zoo, will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Seventh Street Plaza side of James Brown Arena.