by Ronda Payne/Special to Langley Advance Times
Co-founder of Thunderbird Show Park (tbird), the late Dianne Tidball, long ago coined a phrase that has echoed through the equestrian facility for as long as tbird has existed.
It’s one that the organization’s team members heard over the years, picked up and continue to quote.
Dianne had said, “I want people to wonder, as they drive through our entrance gates, what’s new and improved at Thunderbird this year?”
In 2005, she passed the reins of tbird (as well as the legacy of the phrase) to daughter Jane Tidball, who is now the CEO and the board’s chair.
Each year, Jane has referred to that phrase, reminding everyone it was her mom’s mission statement and part of what makes tbird a world-class facility.
That mission continues with force even after Dianne’s passing in 2014.
This year, as the park is holding the first non-restricted event in two years, Dianne would be proud of the latest improvements and the ability to open the entrance gates wide in welcome.
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While part of the improvements that constantly go on at tbird are aesthetic necessities – like repainting jumping poles, replacing gravel roadways, and refilling riding ring base materials – other improvements happen because they are essential when inviting so many people to the facility for an event that’s planned to be even better than previous years.
Chris Pack, tbird’s president and operations director, said the upcoming Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup will have more competing teams and horses than ever before.
“It’s the biggest show we’ve ever had,” he said.
“This will be over 1,000 horses, probably 1,100 horses. We’re putting up 1,250 stalls.”
In addition to the Nations Cup, multiple events will be hosted during a two-week period, so there’s a lot of prize money on the line.
“We have two back-to-back five-star shows, which means that over the two weeks, we’re giving out over $1.75 million,” he said.
Stables allow for more horses, but to accommodate and make the experience even better for guests, more grandstand seating has also been incorporated.
As Pack explained, these aren’t those uncomfortable flat metal benches – they are individual seats.
“We expanded our grandstand seating because in 2019, we sold out,” he explained. “So, we added more sections.”
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Many technological aspects have also been upgraded to provided guests with an even more immersive experience through sight and sound, Pack elaborated.
When fans are able to see and hear the events in multiple ways it offers flexibility in how they choose to watch. Sitting in the grandstands, wandering nearby paths, or picnicking on the grounds – everyone will know what’s going on in the main show rings.
Of course, technology became important for businesses during COVID and tbird is no exception.
Visitor tickets are only available online and allow for a completely contactless purchase and arrival.
Plus, as an open-air venue on 83 acres, with 12 rings, there’s no need for individuals to bunch up while taking in all that action.
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