uac032812001.jpg The 61st running of Stoneybrook Steeplechase is scheduled for Saturday, April 7 at Carolina Horse Park in Raeford. Horse racing fans are in for a treat, but you don’t need to be an equine enthusiast to have a great time at the event.

It’s a good time for all ages and walks of life, according Nicole White, marketing and communications manager at Carolina Horse Park.

“We are thrilled to be experiencing growing crowds from Fayetteville and Cumberland County and want to extend a specific invitation to them for this year’s Stoneybrook,” said White. “This is one of the few events in our area that is this unique and is really for everyone. Stoneybrook brings together all walks of life. There is a great array of activities all day long and it’s fun to see all types of people come together and enjoy themselves.”

The day starts bright and early with registration for the Cancer CARE Fund Run for the Ribbons 5K and 1K. The race starts at 9 a.m. Proceeds from the event benefit local cancer patients. Last year more than 600 runners participated, and White is hoping for even more this year. Not only is it a good cause, it is a beautiful run.

“The race starts and ends on the race track, where mere hours later horses will be thundering by, and goes through portions of our 250 acres and the cross-country course,” White said. “Those who do the footrace get free admission into the event for the rest of the day,” she added.

The vendor area, known as Merchants Crossing, and the beer garden open at 10 a.m. With the Kid Zone, Merchant Crossing and the Beer Garden in the same area, you won’t have to travel far to find something fun to do.

Traditionally scheduled for the first weekend in April, Stoneybrook Steeplechase falls on Easter weekend this year and will feature Easter egg hunts and a visit from the Easter Bunny to entertain the younger guests.

“We have some new kid’s events this year including a John Deer/Quality Equipment tricycle race,” said White. “The winner gets to take home their tricycle.”

Other fun Kid Zone activities include pony rides, an appearance by Truman the dragon of Kidsville News!, pony rides, a climbing wall, bounce houses, a mechanical bull and more.03-28-12-steeplechase.jpg

Merchants Circle promises to be a one of a kind shopping experience.

“We are looking at more than 40 vendors including food and retail … anything and everything from sponsor booths to frozen yogurt and hotdogs to specialty equipment and high end clothing will be available.”

The Huske Hardware House Beer Garden is located near Merchants Circle and will offer a variety of beers for the tasting and spaces for socializing throughout the day.

At 11:30 a.m., the contests begin. There will be a wine cellar tailgate contest, the Hawkins and Harkness Hat Contest and the Jefferson Inn Kids and Celebrity Stick Horse Race.

The opening ceremonies begin at noon and include the Turf Club VIP Luncheon, the raising of the flag and the singing of the National Anthem. Another highlight this year is the opening ceremony.

“We will have the Dugan Briggs Veteran Parachute Team — many of whom are current and prior Golden Knights,” said White. “They are going to jump in with the American flag, which will kick off the opening ceremonies.”

Fayetteville’s own Summer Collins plays a part in the ceremony as well, singing the National Anthem.

Following the opening ceremonies, contest winners will be announced, and at 1 p.m. it’s the call to the paddock as riders and viewers prepare for the races.

After the horses have run, there are Easter egg hunts for children 0-5 and 6-12 years old.

Gates close at 6 p.m.

03-28-12-steeplechase-2.jpgThis year Stoneybrooke Steeplechase has partnered with area Harris Teeter stores in Whispering Pines, Aberdeen, Fayetteville and Lauringburg. Stop by one of these Harris Teeter stores and purchase a general admission ticket with your VIC card and receive a 20 percent discount. This deal is good through April 6. Tickets are available at the customer service desk in the stores. Military members can receive a 20 percent discount on general admission and tailgate spaces by purchasing a ticket through Carolina Horse Park.

Tickets cost $25 in advance and $30 on race day. Find out more about tailgating options and other race day events at www.carolinahorsepark.com/stoneybrook.

Photos: (Middle right) The 61st running of Stoneybrook Steeplechase is scheduled for Saturday, April 7 at Carolina Horse Park in Raeford.  (Bottom left) Mad Hatters are always a big hit at the steeplechase.

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