***UPDATE*** The board of the EEI has decided to extend the fundraising deadline until Wednesday, February 10th.
The total, appropriately announced at 11 p.m., was short of the $750,000 that Equestrian Events Inc. had said would be needed to consider holding the competition. But there’s still hope.
Last Tuesday, the 5-Star was called off because fans–even at the 50 percent capacity requested by the organizer–could not attend under the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s Covid protocol that bans spectators. EEI, which said the 2019 event cost $3.8 million to produce, maintained it wasn’t possible to run a 5-Star without funding from ticket purchases. It is also under the obligation to honor refund requests from those who bought tickets for the 2020 event, which was Covid-cancelled. If EEI had to cover all the refunds, it would be very short of money and unable to pay for a variety of expenses as well as FEI mandates for a 5-Star.
Instead, when EEI cancelled the 5-Star, it proposed running a 4-Star Short and a number of national divisions so people could ride at the Kentucky Horse Park on what is known as “the best weekend all year,” even if they couldn’t sit in the stands and watch the sport’s stars. Entry fees also would help EEI in working toward the 2022 5-Star.
But eventers were upset that the 5-star, the highlight of their season, wouldn’t be held. So they did something about it.
Trying to save the 5-star, show jumper Brian Murphy and his wife, eventer Sara Kozumplik Murphy, took an initiative organizing a grass-roots fundraising appeal on Thursday via the Kentucky Three-Day website. EEI Executive Director Lee Carter said it would take $750,000 in donations by 11:59 p.m. yesterday to consider reinstating the event. While a total of $1.5 million is needed to run the bare bones version, if the $750,000 base could be achieved, EEI might be able to find a way of matching that amount, he explained.
However, citing the tight timeline of less than four days originally given to those behind the funding effort, Lee said he made “a concession” that they would only have to raise $400,000, rather than the full 750,000 by yesterday’s deadline “since it was such a short time frame over the weekend.”
The $423,917 total includes $123,917 from the grassroots effort. The rest is from private gifts.
This afternoon, the EEI Executive Committee will meet to “review current status of donations to determine the appropriate next steps.”
However, Lee emphasized that while EEI was “trying to be responsive to the community” in decreasing the amount that had to be raised by yesterday, the 5-Star “still needs $1.5 million total and $750,000 in this initial push” in order to be a go.
In a video geared to prospective donors, Sara called the cancellation “a disappointment and an embarrassment and made us frustrated. We should try very hard to have this historic fantastic event run in this country and not miss another year.”
She believes more money could be raised “if we can continue the online effort for another week. If we keep this momentum going, we can actually make this happen.”