TRAVERSE CITY — Alexandra Rheinheimer estimates more than 1,500 horses will trot into Traverse City in July, an equine stampede that will bring with them at least 4,500 people who’ll shell out an estimated $10 million during their stay here.
“There are people staying at hotels, or have rented homes, and they’re dining out,” Rheinheimer said. “They’re using the gas stations, the salons. They’re recreating outside of the horse show, they’re going to golf courses, they’re shopping, they’re renting any type of watercraft that’s available. They are living here besides just coming in for a weekend. They have to spend their money on everyday living expenses.”
Rheinheimer owns Horse Shows by the Bay Equestrian Festival, Traverse City’s month-long horse show where riders compete for $600,000 in prize money and rack up points toward national awards and competitions. Rheinheimer started the event in 2004 to replace a horse show in Bloomfield Hills, and bills the event as a vacation and competition mix.
“It is probably one of the highest-impacting from an economic standpoint as to what they do inject into the area when the event is running,” said Laura Oblinger, chief operating officer for the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. “The primary reason is because of the caliber of the people that take part in that. They spend a lot of money.”
Oblinger said Horse Shows by the Bay competitors stay in the area for an extended stretch, and sometimes fly back and forth to home and Traverse City on private jets. She’s heard of competitors buying local real estate after visiting Traverse City for the horse show.
Paul Fabiano, of Fabiano’s on the River, sees the impact of horse show competitors first-hand. Fabiano’s is a party store on the south end of Torch Lake that features boat rentals and a deli that delivers to boats on the lake’s sand bar. Fabiano said business doubles on Mondays in July, thanks to riders champing at the bit to get on the water on their day off from the show.