THE 2016 Scone & Upper Hunter Horse Festival was launched on Thursday evening in a blaze of glitz and glamour at the Vinery Stud Function Room.
More than 60 guests attended the Opening Night Cocktail Party, which also unveiled the 2016 VIP, Young Achiever Award and the inaugural calendar, Studs of the Upper Hunter.
Debbie Racklyeft was a popular recipient of the VIP crown, taking over the mantle from Susan Bettington.
Talented young polocrosse player Joe Wamsley secured the Young Achiever Award.
“The Scone & Upper Hunter Horse Festival is a really special event, which we can all be very proud of,” committee president Lee Watts said.
“Most regional areas are struggling to promote tourism and find things to draw people to their towns.
“Scone and the Upper Hunter have built up this festival over 36 years – and it is still growing, attracting more tourists and the support from locals is as enthusiastic as ever.
“You only have to look around on the day of the street parade to see how much this community supports this event.
“There are people who travel from all of the country to participate in the events held over the next couple of weeks and thousands who flock in for the Emirates Scone Cup.”
This year’s theme for the festival is Horses go to Rio, in celebration of the Olympics taking place in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“Expect feathers, expect samba and expect lots of excitement,” Mrs Watts said.
“I’m sure we will all see some amazing floats in Kelly Street on Saturday.”
Mrs Watts said the current horse festival committee had been amazing.
“I’ve been on lots of community committees over the years and love being involved with these events,” she said.
“And, like most things in our community, behind the scenes making events like this possible are a small dedicated group of people who volunteer their time.
“They are all very busy people, who work, run businesses, have young children.
“But, they have volunteered their time for free to ensure this incredible festival grows from strength-to-strength.
“The other dedicated group is the band of sponsors, who make the festival the success it is.
“I thank each and every one of you.
“Your financial support not only means the festival can happen – it means it can continue to grow.
“And, the entire area benefits from the tourism it creates.”