While more than 250 people sipped fine wines and sampled appies at the Langley Grand Prix, there was a flurry of activity, some of it behind the scenes and some of it in plain sight.
Canuel Caterers, supplier of the tasty delicacies on the tables, was busy plating course after course in a temporary fabric shelter by the entrance.
In a small arena off to one side, riders were busy warming up their horses, checking their gear and waiting for their name to be called.
On the way in to what was billed as “quite possibly the best event of the year,” people passed by tables laden with silent auction items, ranging from small floral arrangements to a ready-to-assemble wooden garden arch with seats, to a weekend away.
Inside, a draped ceiling under an open roof created the effect of a luxurious tent, as attendees settled in to watch the action.
It was the final day of the Canadian Premier international horse jumping competition, with top-ranked riders guiding their steeds over a series of jumps, one of them close enough that the people in the stands were almost in touching distance.
At one point, during a break in the competition, an unusual graduation ceremony was held for students of the Langley Equestrian Academy, the unique school district program that allows some young riders to juggle their studying with their competition, while giving others a chance to benefit from the equestrian experience.
While the action played out in the main arena of the Thunderbird Show Park, the people in the roped-off section could taste food, try out wines and craft beers, and cheer on the jumpers.
“Forget about dinner,” one participant could be overheard saying.
For 14 years, the event has been raising money for school kids.
Susan Cairns, executive director of the Langley School District Foundation charity, said the gala has grown considerably since the early days.
“We started off pretty small,” Cairns recalled.
“Now, we’re sold out three weeks before it begins.”
For the foundation, the Grand Prix is a big contributor to the $900,000 in funds they raise every year to support various initiatives, Cairns said.
“It’s one of our two major fundraisers for the year,” Cairns observed.
“It benefits every Langley student.”
This year, the Langley Grand Prix raised more than $80,000, a record.
“It was amazing,” Cairns told the Langley Advance Times, adding that was the gross before expenses, and the final net would be more like $60,000.
A lot of the increase appeared to be result of spirited bidding during the silent auction.
For example, the weekend away, in Naramata, that included a wine tour, six-course meal and accommodation, went for $3,000.
More than that, however, Cairns believes there is growing awareness about the foundation and its role in providing programs for students that the provincial government doesn’t.
“We are trying to make sure that people know there are many programs that are not funded by the ministry of education,” Cairns said.
Among the programs supported by the event is Food for Thought, the focus of the Gala campaign this year.
It helps feed about 3,000 students within the Langley School District who come to school hungry, and even provides food for evenings and weekends to some.
“We help out wherever we can,” Cairns said.
As well, the foundation is supporting “Kids Helping Kids: Kids Meeting Kids” that will see four Kenyan students and their teacher coming to Langley in November to share tales of Kenyan culture, education, traditions and experiences as they travel from school to school meeting our students and hopefully establishing life-long bonds.
More Grand Prix photos can be viewed online.
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