Volunteers make the Block House

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, April 21, 2016

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On Saturday, May 7, the Block House Steeplechase will mark its 70th annual running – and the 70th year in which an army of volunteers makes the whole spectacle possible.

On race day itself, nearly 200 volunteers will be on site handling a wide range of duties, from parking assistance and providing directions, to judging contests, hosting hospitality tents, and escorting horses, jockeys and their “connections” between the barns and the paddock.

Many Block House volunteers have been pitching in for decades while others are jumping in for the first time. From the easiest jobs to the ones requiring some specialized expertise, the Block House depends on each and every one. Here are just a few of the people making sure everything runs smoothly.

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Jim Troppmann headed up all parking and grounds efforts, both the advance staking of spots and, with the help of the Foothills Community Youth Group, guiding attendees on race day. Hospitality chairs Noreen Cothran and Susan Penfold are overseeing all catering, hosts, and marshals for the Mint Julep Tent (horse owners and box holders), Race Tower Tent (volunteers and race officials), and Kidd Barn (owners, riders and trainers).

Some of the most important volunteers are the 12 Safety/Cross Walk guards, who make sure the track is cleared of spectators before the next race is called. Volunteers also serve as judges for the Tailgating, Hat, and Go-To-Hell (GTH) Pants contest – new this year! – but their names are a closely held secret. Special thanks to Bi-Lo and to Bon Secours Wellness Arena for donating all contest prizes.

Overseeing everything to do with horse stabling for the professional racehorses, the pre-race exhibit horses, and the amateur horses entered in the two Foxhunters Cup races, is “Barn Boss” Anita Williamson, assisted by Barn Stewards in each of four different barns.

Pre-race entertainment is also provided by volunteer groups, including Green Creek Miniature Horses; Hulinndalur Icelandic Horses; the Paso Fino Breed group; and the Old Tryon Foot Beagles. There are two volunteer mounted Safety Outriders and a team of Patrol Judges and Jump Marshals who monitor jumps around the track in support of National Steeplechase Association officials.

These are only a few of the many types of volunteers needed to present the Block House each year, which means plenty of opportunities for you to get involved. Plan to contact race host Tryon Riding & Hunt Club next year to be part of the action.

A different type of volunteer – although they’re each hoping to earn part of a purse – are the riders participating in the two amateur races: the Tom Mosca Memorial Race for Thoroughbreds, sponsored by Camp Wayfarer, and the Margaret “Peggy” Carter Memorial Race for non-Thoroughbreds, sponsored by Lingerfelt Landscaping. Although it can change before race day, at press time there were 10 area riders and their horses preparing to compete in these races.

And a most important group of volunteers are those who sponsor and provide the purses for the professional races: Synnex Corporation for the Carter Brown Memorial Race; WSPA/Channel 7 and Tryon Estates for the Cannon Harmon Memorial Race; The Cliffs for the Dr. John Bradshaw Memorial Race; and Tryon International Equestrian Center for the feature race of the day, The Block House Race.

Come be part of the excitement! There are still some reserved parking spaces available; go to www.blockhouseraces.com for more information or to make your reservations.

– Submitted by Tryon Riding & Hunt Club