Driving the local economy

By Damon Cline | Business Editor

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The National Carriage & Driving Horse Auction's decision to relocate to Augusta from Perry, Ga., could have a $4 million impact on the city, civic leaders and tourism officials said Monday.

That would make the three-day auction, which could draw as many as 5,000 to 7,000 visitors to the area in September, one of the city's top 5 tourism events.

During a news conference Monday, community activist group CSRAhelp and the Greater Augusta Sports Council announced the auction's move to North Augusta's Hippodrome facility.

Auction owner Jim Rhodes said he has been discussing a move with the groups for nearly three years.

Though Perry's Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter boasts larger facilities, Mr. Rhodes said he believes Augusta's promotional power can help make the auction even larger.

"When you're in Perry, you're just another entity at the fairgrounds," said Mr. Rhodes, a resident of Blythe. "In Augusta, I have the community support."

The show and auction were started in 1999. Some years, it has auctioned off as many as 250 carriages and 500 horses, ranging from mules to Clydesdales.

"I'm convinced we will make Jim's event even larger," said Woody Merry, an Augusta businessman and the head of CSRAhelp.

Mr. Merry said Augusta competed for the show with horse venues in Atlanta, Jacksonville, Fla., and Asheville, N.C.

The National Carriage & Driving Horse Auction has been known in equine circles as the "Big Perry Show."

Mr. Rhodes said 90 percent of the event's employees are Amish from Kentucky, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

Many of their items, including bentwood furniture, are on sale during the event's large field sale of horse- and Western-related merchandise.

The Augusta show, scheduled Sept. 13-15, also will feature nonsales events such as "real horsepower" shows, in which draft horses compete to pull 10,000 pounds of dead weight 24 feet.

Tammy Stout, the director of the Greater Augusta Sports Council, said the event has the potential to be a top 5 tourism event for the city.

It also will strengthen the equestrian niche in a market that already includes the Augusta Futurity cutting horse show, the National Barrel Horse Association World Championships and the Aiken Triple Crown.

"We're excited to add it to the menu of different events," she said.

Mr. Rhodes said if the inaugural auction goes well, it could expand into a weeklong country and western event featuring live music acts and other activities.

Mr. Merry said the show will bring a lot of disposable income to the city.

"These aren't poor guys; these are wealthy individuals," he said of horse enthusiasts.


Email us by clicking here.