So, on this day last year I booked a hotel room for WEG in Tryon, NC not knowing whether or not I’d go, but knowing I wanted to have a hotel room booked just in case I decided to go. Fast forward a month and I bought tickets for K and myself. Fast forward many more months and I was really nervous about this trip. Numerous reports were coming in about how the facility would not be finished, how the parking would be a nightmare and how the small two lane road to and from the parking area would be backed up for miles since it wasn’t designed for so much traffic.
In spite of all of that, we went to WEG and had a wonderful time. Our trip was impacted by a hurricane, but both positively and negatively. Negatively in that the freestyle dressage event scheduled for Sunday was cancelled. I have since received an email from the show management offering me a cash refund for a percentage of our dressage ticket pack, the value towards merch in the WEG store, or to swap it out for tickets for anything going on during week two. I chose the cash value (I already hit the WEG merch pretty hard while we were in attendance if I’m being honest…) and am awaiting that refund.
Florence positively impacted our WEG experience in that week one was dramatically under-attended compared to our expectations. We waited for 20 minutes at the longest for a shuttle ride from TIEC to the parking area, and that was immediately following a medals ceremony for dressage, so the flood of people lining up for the shuttle was impressive, but moved quickly. And, let’s be honest, after sitting and watching five hours plus of dressage, is it really that bad to stand up for a little while? So the shuttles worked like a charm for us, though there were stories of a couple getting lost and three getting stuck in the mud.
Speaking of mud, our primary concern was that we would get K’s little two wheel drive car stuck in the steeplechase field that was doubling as the main parking for spectators. Despite getting rained on both Wednesday and Thursday, the ground held up to the traffic outside of a few high traffic areas (where they were turning the shuttles around…) and those were magically covered in gravel overnight once they became problem areas. The only traffic we got stuck in during the four days we attended WEG was briefly when they were putting some new gravel on the entrance to the parking area and they stopped traffic for the equipment operators to complete their task. We were sitting in air conditioning, so that didn’t bother us in the least. Another note on parking? They were so overwhelmed/disorganized on day one that they didn’t charge for parking.
As far as assigned seating goes, we dispensed with that immediately. We found our row in the building designated for reining and didn’t bother counting out to find out seats because there were so few people around that it didn’t make sense to bother. Basically all week we just sat kind of in the vicinity of where our seats were with the rational that if someone said we were in their seats, we’d move. We were never once told we were in anyone’s seats and everyone kind of started to just sit where ever, especially because for the first couple of days, the rows and seats weren’t marked at all. Like the gravel, stickers on the seats appeared after dark. By that point we were all in a first come first serve mindset anyway and sat where we liked.
Which brings me to the volunteers. They were all so helpful and cheerful. They would pass out order of go sheets and were really good about picking up trash that was left behind. There were very few trash cans around the arenas, so we just carried our trash along with us, but several people left it behind for the volunteers to gather, and they did a great job of picking up after those people.
The facility has been very thoughtfully designed. If you didn’t mind a short line, you could even use a real flushing toilet, though there were numerous portable toilets around to use in a pinch. They had all of their full service restaurants open, but we never really had the time for a sit down meal, we would’ve missed something! Instead we hit up a food truck for philly cheesesteaks one day and for the two other lunches at TIEC we grabbed hot dogs at the concession stand behind the dressage arena and ate nicer dinners after showering back at the hotel. It was cheaper that way and we felt like we got more value for our money eating a nice dinner instead of quickly scarfing expensive food at TIEC.
The only negative thing about the facilities was that they were unfinished. The far blue seating you see in the above picture wasn’t anchored to the ground, but were temporary bleachers brought in and sat on boards. They worked well and actually had more leg room than the more expensive ticketed seats that were covered. The interesting thing was that during every break, everyone went underground to lay in the grass under the bleachers and nap/snack/rest in the shade. It gave you the feeling of being in a refugee camp of equestrians. Many naps were had and hot dogs eaten under there. Some random Australian woman also thought I was her friend when we were under there and put her ice cold beer on the back of my neck and startled me pretty well. Luckily it was hot and the sentiment kind…despite it not being meant for me. 😉
The new indoor built for reining/vaulting was very well thought out. A tunnel ran under the seats so that you could find your section without walking in front of the spectators. Unfortunately this building was meant to be air conditioned, which means that it wasn’t very well ventilated. Generally that wouldn’t be bad except that the air conditioning didn’t get installed before opening day. Before we left I nerded out at work and laminated a set of our tickets in case the anticipated deluge of rain ruined our regular paper copies. Those laminated sets turned into our premium reining fans. Any air movement was a blessing, even if you generated it yourself.
Overall our experience was top notch. No lines, close parking, no traffic. I didn’t buy a lot of stuff from the vendor area because most of it was marketed towards English riding folk, so it didn’t really call to me. I did get two WEG t-shirts and a hoodie. And like 27 $5 Powerades to beat the heat. 😉
If you’re wondering why I haven’t referenced a single ride or horse, it’s because that is coming tomorrow (if I have my act together…it may be later, let’s be honest)!