October of 2021 marked the inaugural year of the MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill presented by Brown Advisory—only the second five-star on U.S. soil and the seventh of its kind in the world. This October 13-16, the Maryland 5 Star returns to Cecil County, Maryland, for its second year, and organizers intend to make it even better than the first. “There’s always room to get better,” said Jeff Newman, the President and CEO of the Maryland 5 Star.
Onwards and Upwards
The 2021 event welcomed 23,000 spectators to the Fair Hill Special Event Zone, regardless of the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. Organizers are optimistic that number will grow this year with COVID-19 being less of an obstacle. “Our hope is that we’ll get somewhere upwards in the 30,000s,” remarked Newman.
With such a large crowd to look forward to, organizers intend to make the event special for all visitors. “We’re continuing to provide a variety of things to do for the whole family. We’re increasing our tailgating, increasing the amount of retail vendors and we even have corgi racing this year,” Newman said. The Maryland Corgi Cup will be held October 16.
In addition, the Maryland 5 Star will also host a Beer, Wine and Spirits Showcase on October 15, the Maryland Fresh Food Fest on October 16, as well as CCI3*-L competition and the 2022 USEA Young Event Horse Championships. “We’re trying to create a variety of opportunities for people to come out and have a great family day.”
A New Look for Cross-Country
The 5,656-acre property features a cross-country course that ventures through three fields—the Timber Field, the Middle Hay Field and the Sawmill Field. This year, though, course-designer Ian Stark put a twist on the cross-country track, adding the main arena into the plan. “Spectators, hospitality and our sponsor chalets will now get a chance to see cross-country coming through the main arena, which was not the case last year,” Newman said.
“That’s also going to be a great experience for any spectators or general admission that are in our infield to be able to see these competitors and horses going in and out of the infield and into the arena.”
The addition of the main arena to the course also makes room for expanded tailgating. “Now that the course has changed dramatically in terms of going through the main arena, we were able to increase the amount of tailgating spots.”
The sprawling cross-country course proved to be a challenge to get around for many spectators at the inaugural event. A limited number of shuttles were available to transport people, but most were left to trek the long, hilly course. Newman and the organizers took note of the struggle to get around and have made improvements for this year. “We’re going to have more shuttle services,” Newman said. “That’s one of the things that we wanted to improve upon year over year.”
More Accessible Food and Beverage
Another obstacle spectators met on course in 2021 was a lack of food and beverage options as well as bathrooms. Consequently, improvements have been made in those areas, too. “Having the uncertainty of COVID last year, and not so much this year, allows us to increase the number of shuttles, the amount of bathrooms and food and beverage options as well.”
This year, each of the three cross-country fields will have concession areas where spectators can grab food and drink while they are out on course watching the action.
Perhaps the most unique, though, is the addition of a restaurant at the Crab Water Complex in the Sawmill Field. In celebration of the state of Maryland, organizers thought it would be fitting to include a seafood dining experience at the Maryland 5 Star.
“We have the Crab Water Complex, and Maryland is known for crabs, so we are having the Wellwood Restaurant, which was voted to have the best crabs in Maryland at one point, to have a seafood restaurant right by the Crab Complex,” shared Newman. “So, spectators can eat crabs while watching horses go over crabs.”
Elevating the Competitor Experience
At the Maryland 5 Star, the wellbeing of the athletes is at the forefront of organizers’ minds. To elevate the competitor experience, the event has partnered with NovaCare and LifeBridge Health to provide sports medicine and physical therapy experiences for the riders. “We’re really making an emphasis on taking care of their health and recovery,” said Newman. “We continue to have first-class amenities for the health of the horse, but we felt it was important to have equal opportunity for the competitors themselves to have a similar health and recovery experience.”
How to Watch
Can’t make it to this year’s event? No worries. Maryland Public Television will be broadcasting 20 hours of coverage from the 2022 Maryland 5 Star. “Fourteen of those will be live hours of the five-star,” shared Newman. Additionally, USEF Network will cover the three-star and the five-star regionally, and Horse & Country TV will cover the five-star internationally. “There are a lot of opportunities for people to watch the event if they can’t make it out.”
For more information about the MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill presented by Brown Advisory and to purchase tickets, visit maryland5star.us. Follow Practical Horseman’s coverage of the Maryland 5 Star on Facebook and Instagram and at practicalhorsemanmag.com/maryland-5-star-at-fair-hill.
Thanks to ADM Animal Nutrition for our coverage of the 2022 Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, including rider interviews, competition reports, horse spotlights, photos, videos and more!