A three-day barrel racing event last weekend packed the Bulloch County Agricultural Arena and brought an economic impact of nearly $215,000 to Statesboro and Bulloch County.
The RFD TV American Qualifier and other races hosted by the Good Times Barrel Racing Association drew a tremendous crowd over the weekend of Oct. 11–13, bringing competitors and visitors from a dozen states, said arena director Billy Springer.
The grounds were packed, most of the 1,500-seat bleachers were filled, and there was hardly a parking space available, said Bulloch County Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson, who said he enjoyed the show Saturday with family.
“Who would have thought right here in Bulloch County we would see this?” he said.
While the attendance at the event was impressive, the real reason Bulloch County commissioners voted to build the arena after a 20-year hiatus was the anticipated economic impact. This past weekend’s event, which followed a handful of previous smaller events, gave solidity to the dream that began two decades ago when Bulloch County voters passed a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum to fund the arena and adjacent agricultural complex.
While they were here, people spent money.
“The Bulloch County Agricultural Complex is helping spread economic prosperity throughout all local business sectors,” said Becky Davis, executive director of the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Using the state of Georgia's official Event Impact Calculator, we were able to determine that the Good Times Barrel Racing event this past weekend had an economic impact of nearly $215,000. This amount reflects direct tourist spending in the areas of lodging, food, retail, recreation and transportation and is a testament to the importance of agritourism in our community."
Springer was impressed with the size of the crowd and said he is pleased with the number of groups showing interest in the arena.
There were 161 individual contestants at the three-day show, and most of them were accompanied by friends and family. Some traveled just to watch the events.
There were 30 riders from South Carolina, 12 from Florida, seven from North Carolina and five from Alabama.
Four riders hailed from Tennessee, while Indiana, Pennsylvania and Kentucky each sent three contestants. Two each came from Texas and Mississippi, and one was from Colorado.
There were 89 Georgia riders, with only eight of those from Bulloch County, he said.
Thompson said he looks forward to several such events in the future.
“It was very exciting to see the RVs and trailers and horses,” he said. “There were a lot of people and almost all parking spaces were full. We know it helps the economy, and it is truly a blessing that we built it and people are coming.”
Since the arena opened last spring, there have been 24 days of events, with a total of
2,640 participants, excluding friends and family and other spectators, Springer said. Of those participants, 1,690 were from outside the county.
Since opening, the arena has rented 635 stalls and 184 RV sites and sold 1,909 pounds of shavings for stall bedding, he said.
There are events booked at the arena through 2020, with the following scheduled for this year: Ranch Rodeo JX2 Team Roping Productions, Oct. 26–27; American Bully Kennel Club dog show (admission will be charged), Nov. 2; Bulloch County 4-H Livestock Judging, Nov. 9; and RFDS Team Roping, Dec. 1. Most events have free admission unless otherwise stated, Springer said.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.