Feb. 8, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
South Carolina's annual Equifest prior to the Gamecocks' home equestrian meet with Georgia helped bring a great crowd of fans of all ages out to One Wood Farm on Saturday. The marketing department created a family-friendly event to expose local residents to the program, and also provided a free shuttle from campus for the first time for South Carolina students to ride to and from the competition in Blythewood to cheer on the Gamecock Equestrian team.
"We try to have a kid-focused event at least once per year," said Joe O'Clair, marketing manager for South Carolina Athletics. "We've had a little bit more of a push this year to get the word out. This year we had between 70 and 80 kids show up. The bleachers are typically full at our equestrian events, but we definitely had a lot more kids than usual come out."
Children were given barn tours, decorated horseshoes and were allowed to feed some of the horses. There were also activity books provided for the youngsters, and of course Cocky was on hand for pictures. Expert and novice fans of all ages enjoyed the meet as well as the planned activities.
"We've been wanting to bring our granddaughter, Sadie, to a meet, and I saw this and that they were having Equifest going on, so it was perfect," said Cathy Walker of Chapin, S.C. "She was looking forward to seeing the horses. She decorated a horseshoe, and she loved that. I think we would come back again."
Four year-old Sadie acknowledged that riding horses might be in her future.
"I've ridden a pony before," Sadie said. "I liked doing the horseshoes. I put jewels on mine."
"Our girls are always interested in horses," said Rosalind Thompson of Lexington, S.C., who attended with her husband, two daughters and a friend. "My daughter, Jocelyn, is 8 years old and is wanting to be on the team in a few years. She started lessons a while back and has enjoyed it. We heard about it through an email we received. We thought it would be a great opportunity to see what a competition is like. They loved decorating the horseshoes, and I know they just loving watching the (team) perform."
There is also a lot of word of mouth. I think the town of Blythewood takes a lot of pride that Gamecock Equestrian is housed there.
The marketing department used social media and email advertising to Gamecock Club members, and also had banners put up around Blythewood to encourage local residents, who may not necessarily be equestrian enthusiasts, to give it a try. It also gave children, students, and adults a chance to see South Carolina student-athletes up close.
"We put flyers up in stores and day cares, and we had an ad in the local paper and the town's newsletter," O'Clair said. "The Gamecock Club also sent out an email to all of their local chapters, so that was round 4,000 people who received that. There is also a lot of word of mouth. I think the town of Blythewood takes a lot of pride that Gamecock Equestrian is housed there."
"My granddaughter, Allie-Grace, wanted to come," said Bonnie Lennon of Blythewood. "She was here last week and was anxious to come again. She has been here several times. I think I like just being with her and seeing the horses. She likes to walk around and soak it all up."
"It's a completely different sport than anything most people have seen," O'Clair added. "So we just wanted to get them out to give it a chance and show them what we have. You can come out to an event and still have a fun time, even if you don't know much about it. It's a great way to interact with the youth crowd."
South Carolina Equestrian competes at home again at 10 a.m. on Saturday, February 20, against Texas A&M.
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