Event's first weekend offers plenty of action

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The Augusta Futurity hits the ground running Friday in what will be a busy beginning to the 31st edition of the show.

"It gets off to a real good start," Augusta Futurity operations manager Sherry Fulmer said. "We're trying to bring in some local people on the front end to give it a kick."

The annual eight-day horse event begins at 9 a.m. with the $100,000 Amateur 5/6-Year-Old go-round, the first of four events that day. Friday evening will feature two finals, including the Area 18 Youth Scholarship Cutting. The Celebrity Cutting, which will feature 15 local business owners, politicians and television personalities, caps off the night.

"It's sort of an awareness event," Fulmer said.

The weekend continues with a pair of popular events Saturday. From 10 a.m.-1 p.m., the Wrangler Family Fun Fest will be held at the arena's Seventh Street plaza. The free event will feature a petting zoo, pony rides, cloggers and live music.

At 8 p.m. Saturday, the USC Aiken Benefit Bull Riding Championship, a Professional Bull Riders event, will begin.

The Augusta Futurity features several other companion events throughout the show's duration. The annual Futurity Dance will be held at The Country Club, Jan. 27. The following night, the second annual Champions Challenge returns.

One event continuing to gain momentum is the Atlantic Coast Cutting Horse Association Subscribed Stallion Stakes Auction, which began in 2006. Stallion services (one breeding per stallion) are donated to the ACCHA.

The stallions' foals from the first auction will be eligible for a share of an $80,000 purse in 2011. The following year, the prize money is expected to surpass $100,000.

The ACCHA Subscribed Stallion Stakes Auction will be held at 2 p.m. on Jan. 29.

The professional cutters begin competition Sunday with the start of the Classic Open first go-round. The Futurity Open first go-round starts the following day.

Defending Futurity Open champion Phil Rapp -- who is also the all-time Augusta champion --will look to add a 10th title this year. Rapp has become a staple of the show -- he helps oversee the cattle settlers and wears a staff badge.

"He's become a liaison between the staff and the cutters," Fulmer said. "He's become a wonderful cheerleader for the show."

The crown jewel of the eight-day show is the Augusta Futurity Open finals, which will be the final event, Saturday, Jan. 30. Opening ceremonies begin at 6:30 that evening and will be followed by the Futurity Non-Pro finals.

One important off-dirt event this year will be the induction of three new members into the Augusta Futurity Hall of Fame: Atlantic Coast Cutting Horse Association directors M.D. Babcock and George Wallen and longtime Augusta Futurity show manager Pete May.

"He's been such an influence on this show," Fulmer said about May. "It was such a natural thing."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

All Augusta Futurity events will be held at James Brown Arena, unless noted. Morning events begin at 9.

FRIDAY: $100,000 Amateur 5/6-Year-Old go-round. Area 18 Youth Scholarship finals, 7 p.m.; followed by $100,000 Amateur 5/6-Year-Old finals; followed by Celebrity Cutting Contest.

SATURDAY: $100,000 Amateur 4-Year-Old go-round. Wrangler Family Fun Fest, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Championship Bull Riding, 8 p.m.

SUNDAY: Classic Open first go-round; followed by $100,000 Amateur 4-Year-Old finals.

MONDAY: Futurity Open first go-round.

TUESDAY: Classic Open second go-round; followed by Classic Non-Pro first go-round.

WEDNESDAY: Futurity Open second go-round; followed by $50,000 Non-Pro Any Age go-round; followed by $50,000 Non-Pro Any Age finals. Futurity Dance at The Country Club, 8 p.m.

THURSDAY : Futurity Non-Pro first go-round; followed by Classic Non-Pro second go-round. The Champions Challenge Open finals, 7 p.m.; followed by The Champions Challenge Non-Pro finals.

FRIDAY, JAN. 29: Futurity Non-Pro second go-round. ACCHA Subscribed Stallion Stakes Auction, 2 p.m. Classic Non-Pro finals, 7 p.m.; followed by Classic Open finals.

SATURDAY, JAN. 30: Futurity Horse Sale, 9 a.m.. Opening ceremonies, 6:30 p.m.; followed by Futurity Non-Pro finals; followed by Futurity Open finals.


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