In just over one month over half-a-million people shall descend upon our local community of 3,000.
Yes, the global spectacle, the World Equestrian Games, gallops into Tryon, North Carolina, Sept. 11 for two weeks as it showcases over eight disciplines of Olympic-caliber competition. We’re talking horses worth over a million bucks being flown in with a bevy of grooms, team vets, farriers, coaches and riders. Tickets have been selling like crazy and people from all over the planet are flying in, having booked hotels while those of us in the area, recognizing a golden opportunity, are offering guest houses and guest bedrooms at a premium price.
Shuttles will be busing in spectators as they spend most of their time at the spectacular Tryon International Equestrian Center (yes, I know technically it’s located off the Pea Ridge exit, but somehow, “‘The Pea Ridge Pony Palace” doesn’t have the same ring, now, does it). But I’m thinking, as a good-natured, hospitable Southerner, what are we going to do with these folks once they decide to scope outside the facility and check out the area?
I mean, I don’t care how many Baptist churches we have, we simply don’t have that many hands to make half-a-million deviled eggs. And you know everybody’s going to want at least two.
It would be nice, don’t you think, to instead of figuring out how much cash we can wring out of them in our restaurants and shops, to also show them around and give them a taste of what they won’t find in Holland, Japan, Australia or Ecuador? I first thought of a trip to the iconic Beacon in Spartanburg, but only for spectators. You don’t want to ingest onion rings the size of a fan belt and then jostle around on top of a horse in front of the world. Especially when the arena is mic’d (I can never decide if that mutilated word should have an apostrophe or not). It’s bad enough that we blame our dogs for sudden bursts of noise. Surely that shouldn’t apply to horses as well?
Saluda, North Carolina, is awfully nice this time of year. For sure, The Purple Onion could squeeze in several folks, and Ward’s Grill is a must for a pimento sammich and chocolate shake. The waiting list for 500,000 might just have folks streaming in line all the way down the hill to The Orchard Inn, as well as Caro-Mi, where they can absorb a true mountain vibe by rocking on the front porch in front of the river with an obligatory sweet tea, watching the lightning bugs before heading in for a plate of mountain trout and all the trimmings, whether they want them or not.
Myrtle Beach will be a bit of a drive, so perhaps I’ll point them to Charleston and Folly Beach. Does it get any better? Alright, yes, maybe it does, but you’ve gotta love the vintage crab shack vibe of Folly, as well as the fact that there’s not a damned thing to do after you’ve walked to the lighthouse and cycled around town and handled the souvenir trinkets made of seashells. But that’s why I love it. And after you’ve been mingling with a half-million people all day, I’d bet they would, too.
I would imagine a trek to Asheville and viewing Biltmore is a no brainer, and as with Hendersonville, there’s a multitude of places to eat and drink. However, I hope someone takes a few of these folks aside and whispers, “You haven’t lived till you’ve tubed down the Green River, come with me!” or “Ive got a pontoon boat on Lake Lure — let me show you the view of the mountains from the middle of the lake,” or “The cider mills are opening up in the mountains. Let me give you your first taste of apple butter.”
I’m not saying for a moment that there’s anything wrong with our local businesses having a flourishing two weeks. And as rural as the area is, I wouldn’t be surprised to see farmers in the general vicinity allowing parking in their fields for $5 a car (in fact, that could certainly amend parking lot shortages). Because, yes, while there’s a lot of money to be made from half-a-million people, being simply hospitable is worth even more.