The 2014 Elloree Trials festivities kicked off the same way they did when the track first opened on July 25, 1940: with a lancing tournament, which was followed by a set of races.
The last time the track hosted a lancing tournament there was likely in the mid-1950s, said Elloree Training Center owner Franklin “Goree” Smith.
Six of the Cedar Swamp Lancers, of Kingstree, dressed in colonial-era type attire and demonstrated the sport much like it was practiced in South Carolina in the late 1700s.
Trackside, children stood awestruck as they watched horse riders – called “knights,” for men and “fairladies,” for women – hold wooden poles, called “lances,” measuring from about 5 to 7 feet as the horses ran at a brisk gait.
The object of the event is to spear three rings, each measuring 2-inches in diameter and at a distance of 75 feet apart, from a strap hanging from a wooden gallows-like post.
“It’s a game of skill,” described longtime Elloree Trials announcer Bob Hickman.
“Lancing has survived because many people, especially in the South, love horses, have a fondness for good clean fun and value family traditions,” he said.
Smith said he was grateful that the Cedar Swamp Lancers could take part in this year’s Elloree Trials.
Smith said he has faint memories from when he attended races at the Elloree Training Center as a young boy and noting the pointed and long lances from contests at the track.
“It was probably in the late 1940s,” Smith said.
Additional Elloree Trials festivities got underway with crowd-favorites such as jumps from the Carolina Skydivers and the annual crowning of “Miss Elloree Trials.”
Rebecca Cantley, a sophomore at Holly Hill Academy and daughter of Mr. and Mrs. David Cantley, was crowned “Miss Elloree Trials 2014” by outgoing title-holder Elizabeth Kayleen Hamilton.
Cantley, who enjoys sports such as horseback riding, cheerleading and boating, said she’s excited to be selected as Miss Elloree Trials 2014 so she can be a positive role model for others.
Caitlynn Nicole Way, a junior at Calhoun Academy won as second runner-up and Haley Elizabeth Clark, a senior at Branchville High School, won first runner-up.
Another part of the Elloree Trials tradition is gathering with friends, family and sharing food and beverages.
Vicki Adams and husband Tony, who live in Elloree part-time and in Orangeburg, had friends surrounding their reserved tailgating space with a bounty of food and horse-themed décor.
Adams said they’ve been attending the Elloree Trials for about 5 years and she looks forward to it annually.
“We just love it. We have a good time,” she said.
Last year, their tailgate design and décor fetched second place and the year prior to that it won first place.
This year, the Adams won third place.
“I just pick up the colors of the Elloree Trials – green and yellow – and go with that,” she said.
Denise Richards, of Conyers, Ga., third place winner in another traditional Elloree Trials contest, found her winning entry at a shop called Twisted Sisters.
Her silky, wide-brimmed hat beckoned her from a display window.
“When I saw it, I said to myself, ‘I have to have this hat for the Elloree Trials!’”
Although Richards has been coming to the equestrian event for several years, others at Saturday’s event were there for the first time.
Among the crowd of thousands was Will Batten, of Odessa, Tex.
Batten owned Deferred Secrets, a quarterhorse entry in the tenth race of the Elloree Trials.
Although Deferred Secrets didn’t place among the top 3 horses in that 350-yard run, Batten said he enjoyed his first time at the Elloree Trials and plans to return.
Elloree Mayor Stan Busch encouraged folks to visit Elloree more frequently and enjoy the shops, dining and two museums that the town has to offer.
Without a doubt, the most enjoyable aspect about the 2014 Elloree Trials was the weather – it wasn’t too hot and it definitely was not as muddy as the rain-soaked Elloree Trials of 2013.
Winners of the 2014 Elloree Trials hat contest:
Ages 1 to 6: First, Carson Shuler; Second, Kinsley McGee
Ages 7 to 13: First, Kaylee Zeigler; Second, Abbighile Hunsucker
Ages 14 and up: First, Peggy McGee; Second, Debbie Avinger; Third, Denise Richards
Winners of the 2014 Elloree Trials tailgate contest:
First place – Travis and Ashley Durr, Cody and Rebekah Durr and Rhett and Diane Riley
Second place – Tammy Redden
Third place – Tony and Vicki Adams
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