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With no spectators allowed, Wellington will broadcast horse shows on its TV channels

Coronavirus restrictions have closed the grandstands at equestrian competitions, so Wellington is offering its TV channels for streaming broadcasts.

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article: Kristina Webb Palm Beach Post WELLINGTON — With equestrian competitions closed to spectators because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, organizers and Wellington are partnering to bring the coming year’s horse shows to people’s homes and local restaurants.

Wellington Equestrian Partners and the village entered into an agreement this week for a co-sponsorship where Wellington will broadcast equestrian events on its TV channels: Channel 18 on Comcast and channel 99 on AT&T U-verse.

The agreement, which does not involve any exchange of money, is the first of its kind for Wellington, Village Attorney Laurie Cohen told council members at their Nov. 9 agenda review workshop. Wellington Equestrian Partners and Equestrian Sport Productions operate the Winter Equestrian Festival at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, the Adequan Global Dressage Festival at Equestrian Village and high-goal polo at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. Both companies are led by equestrian businessman Mark Bellissimo.

All three competitions begin in January.

The possibility of a co-sponsorship for Wellington to broadcast the equestrian events at the Village Council’s Oct. 27 meeting, when council members unanimously approved the dressage festival’s special-use permit for the coming year.

Since earlier this year, Wellington Equestrian Partners has put rigid protocols in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease the novel coronavirus causes.

That includes closing events to spectators, along with mandatory masks and temperature checks and the increased sanitizing of shared spaces, organizers said.

The U.S. Equestrian Federation mandated that the events can’t have an audience because of COVID-19, Equestrian Sport Productions president Michael Stone told the council.

Between the Equestrian Village at South Shore Boulevard and Pierson Road and the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center farther west on Pierson, organizers have eliminated about 500 stalls to widen aisles and allow for better social distancing, he said.

“We were sort of the leader for the industry, and that made a big difference for people feeling secure,” Stone said, adding that some world-class competitors who normally would have left Wellington over the summer decided to stay and compete here instead.

Each competition will be livestreamed, and Stone and his team are working with the Wellington Chamber of Commerce to encourage local restaurants and businesses to carry the coverage, Stone said. “We felt that if we did that, at least the restaurants could benefit from people not going to the horse show,” he said.

Stone also foresees a boost to local restaurants because competitions will occur earlier in the day, allowing competitors and their teams to finish earlier and go out at night, he said. “Everything I’ve heard is that we’re going to have a great response from our equestrian athletes this year,” Stone said.

Council members supported the co-sponsorship, which includes promotional banners for the competitions along key Wellington roads, and promotional ads for the village in events programs. “I think it’s extraordinary circumstances, and under those extraordinary circumstances, we should do our part,” Councilman Michael Drahos said.


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