by Ronda Payne/Special to the Langley Advance
Langley’s Thunderbird Show Park is hosting a five-star event for the first time in its 45 year history.
The only Longines Nations Cup in Canada will be held at the show park on Sunday, June 3.
Chris Pack, chief operating officer and tournament manager for tbird, noted it’s a big event, very different from last year’s spring event.
“It’s the first year that we’ve partnered with Longines for the Nations Cup series,” he said. “It’s the oldest running series in equestrian.”
The event, known as Longines FEI Nations Cup Jumping of Canada, is the culmination of five days of activity at the show park.
There will be six riding rings filled with events each of the five days, but Sunday is the best time for guests to come out, take part in a range of activities, and watch Olympic-calibre horse-jumping teams compete.
Horse-and-rider teams are coming from Brazil, Ireland, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico to hopefully qualify for the FEI World Equestrian Games being held in September in Tryon, North Carolina.
“Everyone is trying to get to that,” Pack explained. “It’s the best of the best. We are the only Longines Nations Cup in Canada. It’s a big honour for us. It’s every four years, off-Olympic years.”
Jane Tidball, president and tournament director with tbird, explained that the Langley-based show park is known for being hospitable and is good at putting on an enviable show.
While the Nations Cup begins at 2 p.m., visitors should arrive early, around 12:30 p.m. to take in the early happenings and get seats.
“There’s also a children’s grand prix and a junior grand prix in the morning,” Tidball said.
For those coming for the main event, there is no shortage of activity to take in.
The tbird team invites guests to dress for the country they want to support, and prizes will be awarded for the best dressed.
Plus, on the theme of participating countries, Langley’s own Trading Post Brewing Company will have five different beers available – one for each country – in cups coloured to match.
The show park’s website at tbird.ca allows guests to purchase a $25 ticket for all the beer they can drink and a free viewing spot – but folks are advised to buy tickets early.
“Sunday is the day to come,” said Pack. “There are food trucks, facepainters, pony rides, a band, a drill team and all of tbird’s vendor area will be open.”
Another new addition to tbird is the wooden “mailboxes” at the site’s entrance where visitors can find site maps to help them navigate the Nations Cup and all of the activity.
“A five-star event is the biggest ranking you can get outside of an Olympic event,” Tidball said.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever held a five-star and it’s our 45 year anniversary, so it’s kind of a big deal,” she explained.
As for Canada’s chances at the competition, Tidball said, “Canada has won the first two [qualifiers] this year. They’re sitting really pretty going into it this year. It’s important for the sport. We do it for the sport.”
Dress code isn’t enforced, but many people enjoy dressing up to take part in the events.
With an expectation of 5,000 people and 1,000 horses from around the world, tbird is the place to be for world-class horse-jumping on Sunday.