Apr 8, 2016

Top things to Love About the Gulfport Winter Classic!

by Maggie Junkin

I am 13 years old and riding has been part of my life since I was 4.  I have been lucky enough to compete all over the country.  I love traveling to new places and riding in different venues.

This winter I had the opportunity to show at the Gulf Coast Winter Classic, in Gulfport, Mississippi.  Here are several standout things that make me look forward to returning to Gulfport next year.

14. Friendliness is in the air.  From the show office to the exhibitors everyone was friendly.  Gulfport is a relaxed setting.  Strangers smile and say hello.

13. The Gulf Shores.  From the City of New Orleans to Mobile, each offers easy day trips.  Discover tasty Beignets and Chicory coffee at Café Du Monde in New Orleans.  Enjoy the many miles of beaches and national parks, and the exploration of the quaint beach towns with galleries and boutiques.  

12. Grass Grand Prix Ring.  Cheer on your favorite grand prix riders as they navigate their way around the large grass grand prix field.

11. Groom’s Class.  A chance to reward our hard working grooms.  The winning groom walks away with the coveted distinction of top groom and a cash prize.

Tustin Farm’s Wilmer Diaz winning the 2016 Groom’s Class

10. Lady Luck.  Catch a show or try your luck at gambling at the Biloxi and Gulfport Casinos.

9. Lodging.  There are many great housing choices, all within a half hour of the show grounds. There are plenty of hotels. You can rent large beach houses to share with your barn families, or stay in condos on the beach.  There are also plenty of RV sites on the horse show grounds.

View from our beachfront condo

8. Well-planned layout.  The horse show facility is laid out in an exhibitor friendly way. The jumpers are in the front of the show grounds. The show office, exhibitor lounge, farrier, retail and café are in the center. The hunter rings are in the back. The stabling areas are close to the schooling rings and show rings. There is plenty of parking and there is uncongested space between barns to hang out and unwind in between showing. 

Getting in some soccer time in between divisions

7. Institute For Marine Mammal Studies.  Spend a few hours here and learn about marine life rescue.  Learn the story of the 8 Katrina Dolphins who lived in the Marine Life Oceanarium on the beach in Gulfport, Mississippi. On August 29th, 2005 during Hurricane Katrina this center was crushed by a tidal wave sweeping the dolphins from their tank into the Gulf of Mexico. Learn of their survival and where they are today.

6. Restaurants.  Numerous choices make Mississippi’s Gulf Coast a fabulous place to dine. From beach shacks to seafood, oyster and steak houses you will find something for everyone. In addition there are several diner and dive establishments to make the adventurous happy as well. 

Lunch by the marina at Shaggy’s in Pass Christian

5. VIP tent.  Enjoy snacks, beverages and catered lunches while watching world class jumping right before your eyes. Mingle, make new friends and maybe even get the opportunity to meet an Olympic course designer, Leopoldo Palacios, like I did.

4. Check out college campuses.  My mom and I use our horse show travels to check out regional schools. On our drive from Pennsylvania to Mississippi we passed Duke, Elon, Clemson, and Georgia Tech, to name a few.  We made a stop at Auburn University.

3. Shopping.  Browse the boutique shops, hunt for antiques, shop the outlets, check out the souvenir stores, whatever your style, shopping is the perfect rainy day activity. Leave space in your suitcase!

2. Infinity Science Center and the NASA John C. Stennis Space Center.  Riding at this level often causes younger riders to miss school.  Use downtime to explore the learning opportunities Mississippi has to offer outside of the classroom. Don’t miss a stop at the Infinity Science Center, located on the border of Mississippi and Louisiana, adjacent to the Pearl River. Learn about space travel, planets, weather, and storm patterns.   Explore by bus NASA’s largest rocket engine test facility.

1. The proud people of Mississippi.  Gulfport, Mississippi is often overlooked with the mention of Hurricane Katrina. The New Orleans area was devastated. However, Gulfport was hit equally hard. It’s humbling to talk to the locals and hear their stories. Eleven years later and they are still rebuilding with hard work and great pride. The shopkeepers and restaurant owners welcome the six-week influx of people from the horse show crowd.  It is southern hospitality at its finest.

Maggie Junkin is a 13 year-old who competes in the Large Pony Division with Shaded and the Children’s Hunter Horse division with Tommy Bahama.  She is committed to animal rescue. Her favorite rescue to support is Danny and Ron’s Rescue. Maggie trains with John Mastriano of Tustin Farm in NJ. She lives with her family, 6 dogs, and 3 cats in Jenkintown, Pa.