We’ll be sitting tight another year for the inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, as the event has been postponed to 2021. The Fair Hill Organizing Committee (FHOC), an affiliate of the Sport and Entertainment Corporation of Maryland (The Sport Corp.), announced this morning that health and safety factors, in addition to other challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, led to a final decision to postpone the competition which was originally scheduled for Oct. 15-18, 2020.
Maryland has been hard-hit by the pandemic, ranking #10 in the country by caseload despite its relatively small size. Event organizers and partners are now focused on producing a maiden event next year that will welcome a field of international competitors, as well as spectators traveling to the event from around the world.
A statement from the event explains their decision-making process:
“The FHOC made their decision after a thorough consultation with the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill planning committee, its Competition Management Partner, Fair Hill International (FHI), as well as other key constituents including the State of Maryland and Cecil County. The consensus was made that not being able to guarantee the health and safety of everyone and producing the event in a limited capacity was not favorable for the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill’s inaugural year.
“‘It was a very difficult decision and we are very disappointed for the competitors, fans and eventing community,’ said FHOC President Jeff Newman. ‘The Fair Hill Organizing Committee was created and tasked to plan and produce the inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill as a world-class, international sporting event that includes an abundance of fan offerings drawing spectators from around the world to Cecil County and surrounding region.’
“Newman added, ‘From the start of the pandemic until now, like many sports and entertainment properties, we’ve fully vetted out different scenarios ranging from a scaled back event with some fans, a competition-only event without spectators, or postponing the event to 2021. Ultimately, we felt that the uncertainties and risks that will remain throughout the year are too great to overcome. As a result, with the support of our sponsors and key constituents, postponing the inaugural event to 2021 best enables us to achieve our original goals and set the foundation for a tradition that will continue for many years.'”
We know that Jeff and his team have turned every possible option inside out, looking for a way to make a go of it, and postponement is clearly the only feasible option for the best interest of health and safety for riders, officials, volunteers, spectators and the community at large. Thank you, Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, for all your hard work and we look forward to supporting you 100% in 2021!
The FEI, USEF and USEA have expressed their support of the decision and confirmed new dates for the event: Oct. 14-17, 2021.
US Equestrian CEO Bill Moroney commented, “We recognize the difficulty of the decision to cancel the 2020 Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill considering the excitement and positive momentum building towards the inaugural event in October. We look forward to working with the Organizing Committee to support a successful event in 2021. The 2020 USEF CCI3*-L National Championship will be reallocated to a new venue and details will be announced in the coming weeks.” The reallocation of the YEH Championships will also be announced in coming weeks.
USEA CEO Rob Burk applauded Fair Hill’s developments, including a newly designed Special Event Zone featuring a Ian Stark-designed cross country course as well as new dressage and show jumping areas constructed in the infield of the historic turf track. “Earlier this year I was lucky to see many of the improvements made to the park and all of those involved should be incredibly proud of the direction that the facility is headed,” Rob said. “This will be an event we can all be proud of that will stand amongst the best in the world. We have also been pleased with the work that the organizing committee has done with the Young Event Horse East Coast Championships and we can’t wait to see their continued growth and improvement at Fair Hill in 2021.”
Maryland 5 Star’s partners and sponsors have been notified about the postponement, and we thank them along with the state of Maryland, Cecil County and Fair Hill International (FHI) for their continued support.
“There are too many challenges to overcome this year related to the pandemic,” said FHI President Trish Gilbert. “With this decision, we can move forward with the planning for 2021 and work together to create the best event possible, building upon the legacy FHI has established at Fair Hill over the last few decades.”
Mike Gill and Michael Hankin will remain as the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill’s Co-Chairs. “Ultimately, postponing the event to 2021 was the right move for the first year because health and safety must come first,” they said. “Our goal from the start was to showcase Maryland Pride to attending fans from around the world while also delivering a top-class competition for the riders and horses. However, due to the incredible challenges and uncertainty resulting from the pandemic, that’s just not possible this year. We look forward to producing an incredible event in 2021 and providing an economic stimulus.”
With Maryland off the table, Pau (Oct. 21–25 in France) is the only five-star event left standing for this year. On Tuesday, Pau expressed its intent to run. Kentucky, Badminton, Luhmühlen, Burghley and Adelaide have all been canceled due to the pandemic.
FHOC President Jeff Newman generously took the time to speak to EN about the postponement. Knowing that, for many elite U.S. eventers Maryland was their brightest hope for contesting a five-star in 2020, we asked him to share a message to those riders.
His empathy for the athletes is clear, and a reason that the event took the time to thoroughly vet every possible alternative. Ultimately, the decision came down to safety, but when our sport is back up and running in earnest no doubt the excitement levels will be through the roof — from the athletes to the fans. “I think that every five-star next year is going to come back strong,” Jeff said. “All the events are going to be incredible, and that’s something to look forward to.”
As for his team, who have been working so tirelessly, and the future of the Maryland 5 Star: “This gives a clear direction of where we’re heading.” Like eventers themselves, the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill has a focus and a goal, and they want to come out swinging at the highest level possible. “We’re all excited about what 2021 can provide with an ample runway. We’re all excited in the sport, and we’re also excited to attract the casual sports fan. If we can attract more fans who are not the typical eventing fans, that’s good for everybody.”
Go Eventing, soon!