Palm Beach Pops Orchestra Live Freestyle Performance at Global Dressage Festival Canceled

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Palm Beach Pops Orchestra performing.

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Feb. 19–A live performance by the Palm Beach Pops orchestra of about 55 musicians accompanying freestyle rides that was to be held at the Global Dressage Festival next month in an ambitious effort to promote the Olympic sport was canceled by the show organizers Tuesday over fears the local government would not issue approvals in time.

Equestrian Sport Productions that stages the Winter Equestrian Festival and the Global Dressage Festival would be required to pay the entire contracted amount to the orchestra even if no performance was permitted by the Village of Wellington that governs the community of about 58,000 residents.

“In the current climate where business is not conducted as it has been for decades but in an atmosphere of politics and lawsuits, we could not risk guaranteeing payment of a substantial amount of money and not have it happen,” an ESP spokesperson said. The cost was not disclosed but it was believed to be several tens of thousands of dollars for the event that was to be held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center the night of Friday, Mar. 22.

Up to eight horse and rider combinations, including United States and Canadian Olympians, had committed to perform freestyles accompanied by the orchestra in what would have been a glittering highlight of the winter equestrian circuit that attracts thousands of top riders and horses from around the world.

The biggest concern was construction by an orchestra contractor of a specially covered stage the day before the scheduled concert, as is common for live entertainment. If Village of Wellington inspectors found even a minor variance, it might not have been able to be fixed in time. The local government is closed for regular business on Fridays and weekends.

The over-cautious government permit process stems from lawsuits filed by opponents of the dressage show grounds and has caused several similar situations at the Global Dressage Festival complex this winter. The entire schedule for the second year of the global festival, among the richest dressage series of shows in the world, was in doubt because of an antagonistic local government.

A majority of the local government council elected last year with massive financial backing from opponents of the dressage show grounds reversed approvals voted by a previous council. The government also has restricted use of the already constructed world class facilities to six months a year, depriving equestrians and others of the use of a covered arena during hot and humid summer months when most of the opponents are not resident in the community.

ESP announced last year withdrawal of an application to host the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Wellington due to the political climate. Other cities also dropped out of the bidding for WEG that has left a sole prospective host, Bromont, Canada.

The Palm Beach Pops feature a 55-60 piece orchestra conducted by Bob Lappin and is devoted to preserving and performing the music of the Great American Songbook–from Gershwin to Goodman, Tin Pan Alley to Broadway, Judy Garland to Frank Sinatra.

The planned Palm Beach Pops performance was the latest endeavor by ESP to promote horse sports to a wider community.

In early January, a jumper Grand Prix was staged at Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago club on Palm Beach, the first event of its kind on the storied island and included a dressage exhibition by Tina Konyot and her 2012 Olympic mount, Calecto V.

Dessage Freestyles at the GDF grounds have been scheduled for Friday nights throughout the winter circuit so as not to conflict with “Saturday Night Lights” Grand Prix jumping and Sunday’s featured polo match in the community that has become the world’s most popular winter equestrian destination and offers total prize money of about $7 million and the only Nations Cups in the United States, for both dressage and jumping.

ESP is also staging children’s, junior and young riders Nations Cup to be held simultaneously with the Nations Cup for seniors in what is thought to be a first in the history of horse sports. The events have created such a high level of excitement that Hollow Creek Farm of Aiken, South Carolina, has brought more than three dozen horses and riders from a half dozen Latin American countries to take part.

The dressage Nations Cup, the only non-championship event of its type in the Western Hemisphere, has become vital in development of a new format for the Pan American Games, the world’s largest multi-sport event next to the Olympics and held once every four years.