A reality conceptualized by Mason Lampton 32 years ago, the focus of The Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens is going back to its roots this year in a new and improved way. Always the first Saturday in November, the Steeplechase is more than just a day at the horse races. The Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens was created and has existed to raise money and awareness for the Arts in the Columbus region. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra, The Springer Opera House, the Columbus Museum, Historic Columbus, The RiverCenter for Performing Arts, and the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation all benefit from the funds raised by Steeplechase, as well as the School of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University. The Steeplechase has given over $3.8 million dollars to the Arts in the last 32 years.
The Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens offers something unique, not just to West-Central Georgia, but in general. Hidden away in Callaway Gardens in the heart of Harris County, Georgia, the Steeplechase offers breathtaking views. And while the amenities of the Steeplechase are vast, it’s a day spent out of doors in the peak of a changing season, in an environment that offers a feeling of security that takes you back to a time gone by.
One of the newest aspects to The Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens in 2016 is the hire of Warner Neal and his team at Outdoor Events. “We are thrilled to be at the helm of the Steeplechase for the first time,” says Neal, who has over 30 years of event management experience. “32 years is an incredible lifetime for an event. We are excited to bring new ideas to the table and offer patrons something fresh.”
“We’re changing the game when it comes to feeding your group the day of the Steeplechase,” states Neal. “I get it, it’s a lot to pack the meal, pack the drinks, unload it all at the race and schlep it all to your tent or terrace box.” Instead, Outdoor Events is working with exclusive caterers, ranging in price from EPIC, to 11th and Bay, to Chicken Salad Chick, where you can pre-order your food and pick it up when
you get to the race or have someone take it to your Terrace Box, your Tent, or your Reserved Rail.
This year, those who choose to spend the day in the TSYS Infield will have the choice of a variety of Food Truck vendors from across the Southeast, eliminating the need to pack a meal for the day. “We understand that the easier the day is and the simpler we can make the event for those attending, the more we are able to enhance the experience that is the Steeplechase.” says Neal. “These vendors will range in genre and flavor, offer fresh ingredients, and prepare the food right then. That is completely different from any other year at the Steeplechase.”
In addition, the Infield will continue to offer a place for kids of all ages to enjoy themselves, the Jack Russell Terrier Races, gorgeous views of the horse races, and live music. New and improved this year, Steeplechase will also offer a spot just for the college aged crowd. “I have kids who will be headed off to college soon too. I want to offer them a reason to come home in the future on what could possibly be a weekend with a home game,” laughs Neal. “I get that there has to be a draw and we are working to make sure we are offering something worth coming home for.”
Outdoor Events is working alongside Callaway Gardens to offer great weekend and overnight packages, as well. “This is the kind of weekend that has all the makings for a getaway, no matter if home is down the road or on the other side of the state,” says Neal. “Steeplechase weekend can be whatever you need it to be, whether it is a day away from the norm or a whole weekend in gorgeous Pine Mountain.”
No matter your age, no matter your price range, The Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens has something for everyone. “To have the opportunity to manage an event that I attended the very first year as a college student in the Infield is a pretty incredible feeling,” Warner says. “We love being a part of this community and the Steeplechase is such a wonderful culmination of everything our area has to offer.”
For more information, you can visit the Steeplechase website (www.steeplechaseatcallaway.org).