Augusta Futurity show chairman William S. Morris III rang the cowbell Tuesday morning, signaling the beginning of the annual Champions Club Roundup.
At the Morris Museum of Art, Morris thanked Augusta Futurity officials, sponsors and volunteers. He also discussed several popular events of the 35th annual show, which will be held Jan. 19-25 at James Brown Arena.
“I want to say ‘thank you’ to all of you who have supported this show for 35 years,” said Morris, the chairman and chief executive officer of Morris Communications Co. and publisher of The Augusta Chronicle. “Many of you work in the trenches, some of you have contributed money, you have taken sponsorships, you have been members of the Champions Club. Quite frankly, if it weren’t for you I think this show would not be where it is today.”
The Augusta Futurity’s importance for the state of Georgia should be noted, Morris said. The show spawned the National Barrel Horse Association, which moved its popular world championship to Perry, Ga., after it outgrew Augusta. Last year, the world championship utilized 1,800 horse stalls in Perry.
“What this show has done for this state is remarkable – two major events,” Morris said. “It’s just remarkable what we’ve been able to do.”
The Augusta Futurity brings to town the 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 in economic stimulation 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.
“It’s a blessing to have the largest cutting horse show east of the Mississippi River here every year,” Mayor Deke Copenhaver said. “It brings money into the local economy, but it also gives Augusta exposure to people all over the U.S.”
The USC Aiken Benefit Bull Riding Championship, a companion event to the futurity, kicks off the show Saturday, Jan. 18. The Augusta Futurity officially begins the following day with a pair of amateur events.
On Jan. 22, a new event will be showcased. The Champions Challenge Open and Non-Pro go-rounds will be held that day. The following evening, the Champions Challenge finals will cap the evening.
On Jan. 25, 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 5:30 p.m., the opening ceremonies will be held before the Futurity Non-Pro and Futurity Open finals.