It may not have the glitz and glamour of the legendary Kentucky Derby, which has been running for the roses since 1875.
But The Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens has built quite a following of its own over the last 33 years that it has taken place in the Pine Mountain area, just north of Columbus.
A large crowd of fun seekers are expected to venture Saturday to the event launched in 1985. That’s when Columbus businessman Mason Houghland Lampton hosted the inaugural running of horse races, combined with social activities, good food and beverages.
Aside from the fun that will be pervasive on a cool autumn day, the goal of Steeplechase organizers is to raise money for various arts-related entities. They include the Columbus Museum, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Historic Columbus Foundation, the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation, the Springer Opera House, and the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts.
The 2018 edition of The Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens is presented by Southern Living, the magazine that “celebrates all the best the South has to offer.” A special event Friday evening at the Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens will feature celebrity chef and author Elizabeth Heiskell, with Southern Living’s latest cookbook unveiled using recipes from it for the night’s dinner. It’s $175 per person.
The Steeplechase which takes place 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday will include a variety of events, activities and fund-raisers. There’s a silent auction, raffles, a hat contest, a tailgate and terrace box competition, Jack Russell Terrier races, and infield entertainment for kids to include rock climbing, inflatables and pony rides. There’s also a bagpipes and drum performance and the Midland Foxhounds Parade.
The five major horse races that will take place starting at 1 p.m. will includes two purses of $20,000 and two totaling $25,000. The top competition of the day, the Aflac Supreme Hurdle, will dole out $75,000 to the winning ride.
Infield tickets for the 34th running of The Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens start as low as $30 for adults if purchased in advance; $20 for students and military personnel, and $10 for children. An infield parking pass is $25 in advance, $30 at the gate.
From there, however, the price of admission is based on the size of group you’ll be with and the amenities preferred by those taking in what has been called “the event of the season.”
It starts with a reserved rail spot for six people at $300, then climbs to a terrace tent for 20 at $3,000, maxing out at $6,500 for a tent seating eight with upgraded food, beverages and valet parking. Of course, there are plenty of price points in between, so it’s best to check The Steeplechase ticket page online or call 706-324-6252.
And, finally, there are plenty of frequently asked questions that Steeplechase fun-seekers might have. So for those, go straight to the horse’s mouth, so to speak, which means check out the event’s website at www.steeplechaseatcallaway.org.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens is located at 214 Nelson Road in Pine Mountain, Ga., which is a 45-minute drive north of Columbus. Please don’t drink and drive or bring a designated driver with you.
Those coming from Columbus also can opt for a shuttle service operated by Uptown Valet. For $25 per person, it will pick up and drop off at five locations — the Columbus Country Club, Green Island Hills Country Club, Overlook, Maple Ridge and The River, the latter at the intersection of Barlett’s Ferry Road and Hwy. 219. There are departures from 9:15 a.m. Saturday until 11 a.m., with returns from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Advance reservations are required by calling 706-580-2425.