On July 9, the Village of Wellington council voted 5-0 to approve a special use permit for the Adequan Global Dressage Festival winter circuit in Wellington, Fla.
After an ongoing battle over the new facility, located at the corner of Pierson Road and South Shore Boulevard, the inaugural GDF was allowed to proceed this spring. But that permit expired at the conclusion of the circuit, and the spate of lawsuits and political posturing that remained left the facility’s future up in the air.
The latest council vote will allow Equestrian Sport Productions to organize and host the festival again this coming season. The series will likely feature six CDIs and several national competitions, though the proposed winter schedule and exact dates of the CDIs are still pending U.S. Equestrian Federation approval.
The Jacobs family had originally filed several lawsuits against the project but voiced its approval of the permit in a statement released July 9.
“We are reminded that a community like this doesn’t happen without careful planning and an established process and are certainly pleased to see the developer go through the formal planning process,” stated the release. “Wellington has stayed true to its original vision of a planned community. This is what has helped it to earn the designation as one of the best places to live in America.”
An attorney for the Jacobs family, Amy Huber, suggested modifications to the permit, but the village council members added modifications of their own—including requiring events to end at 10 p.m., except one Friday or Saturday a week where the event can end at 11 p.m.; and on one Thursday during the permit’s duration the event can last until 11 p.m. Events may start at 7 a.m., music can start at 8 a.m., and entertainment can start at 9 a.m.
Michael Stone, president of ESP, said that one of the goals of the festival is to attract as many European and South American riders as possible. Now that the festival has been approved, the company will spend time marketing it to Europeans, including at the ECCO FEI European Championships (Denmark) in August.
“The objective is to build the festival. We think we can make it the biggest and best dressage festival in the world,” said Stone. “I think it’s going to be hugely beneficial [to U.S. dressage]. By bringing more Europeans over here, American riders don’t have to travel to Europe and spend a fortune campaigning. Not everybody can afford it. By bringing the Europeans here, we’re creating a similar level here, just as we’ve done with the jumpers.
“Robert Dover has been one of our great advocates and great helpers in the background, encouraging us to raise the level, raise the standard, make the festival the rival of Aachen [Germany] and Rotterdam [the Netherlands] and all the other major shows in Europe,” he continued.
When discussing a schedule, Stone realized there were too many CDIs in Wellington competing with each other, so ESP worked with Wellington Classic Dressage to acquire their dates. Several shows that were held at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., will move to the Global Dressage Festival grounds.
“We were able to create a logical circuit with a CDI every other weekend and a national show in between. We were also able to work with the International Horse Sport series so we could have the Palm Beach Dressage Derby [in Loxahatchee] in the middle, which has been an iconic dressage event. Hopefully we can raise the level of that as well.”
While this new permit only lasts six months, Equestrian Sport Productions has been working with the Village of Wellington to obtain a year-round permit.
“We’re working on getting a master plan amendment compatibility determination, which will enable us to utilize the facility year-round. That’s a process that will take two to three months,” Stone said.
But for now, Stone is pleased that the festival will be able to provide a full competition circuit for dressage riders.
“We’ve been working for the last six weeks with the staff in the village to come up with something that was acceptable to all. We had to give a little bit; they had to give a little bit; everybody worked together in the spirit of cooperation to make it work,” he said.