Carriage Classic Carries On

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By Breanna Teynor


This year was a particularly unique one for the annual Villa Louis Carriage Classic. The historic mansion, which sits on 25 lush acres, is the perfect backdrop for the Victorian-inspired carriage competitions. However, a series of significant roadwork projects prefaced this year’s events. Up until Aug. 31, around 3,800 feet of Villa Louis road had been paved and prepped for the many events hosted down on the island. The Carriage Classic and its attendees were among the first to make good use of this new amenity, which includes a 10-ft. wide walkway and brand new decorative lights to ensure those paths would remain well-lit. 

Of the construction, event programmer Mike Riter said city administration had worked carefully to ensure any construction would be timely and convenient for the Carriage Classic. Some will recall that last summer’s water pipe construction fell at the end of the event, which sees hundreds of competitors from across the United States (and even some global ones). This year’s project fell between Rendezvous and the Carriage Classic, and the team worked quickly to ensure it would meet that Aug. 31 date. The finished product was well received and very appreciated, with Riter saying he is “very happy with the way it turned out.” 

The road construction is also occurring simultaneously with the Villa Louis walkway project, which is in one of its last phases. Although it had been put on hold because of this spring’s flood, which reached around 22 feet at its peak, crews returned as soon as possible.  They continued to assist in the bricklaying and design of the walkways up until a few days before the event. Visitors to the Carriage Classic took full advantage of the partially completed paths. Group tours weaved in and around the grounds in an environment that is as close as one can get to the time of Hercules Dousman. At one time, Dousman used the grounds for his own prize horses, known as the Artesian Stock Farm.

This weekend, no single part of his sprawling estate was wasted. By the gates, drivers attempted to pause for 45 seconds at the carriage block - approximately the time a horse would’ve needed to pause for passenger dismount. Vendors offered shoe shinings, vintage prints, and plenty of equine accessories. Keyboardist Randy Roberts set the atmosphere by playing a few pleasant tunes for the horses to trot and gallop to. Spectators and visitors alike came to each event with a lot of passion. 

Additionally, a fan-favorite event returned this year. The Picnic Class took place around the picturesque duck pond. Drivers participating in the Picnic Class began in the arena for their judgement, and were allowed to bring their horses to a small picnic that each participant had set up in advance. This competition allowed spectators to participate in judging themselves, voting for their favorite set-ups on bright pink ballot cards. Crowds surrounded each table and looked at the fine menus that each team had come up with. A few tables in particular stand out: A German-inspired group, in Lederhosen and sporting beer steins, served pickled eggs to anybody brave enough to try. A pair dressed like hillbillies (complete with fake teeth and overalls) served leftover ribs and Smirnoff Ice. For those visiting the picnics, deciding a winner was a difficult, if not impossible task.

The thick crowds can in some ways be attributed to the successful conclusion of this summer’s construction efforts, and demonstrates the merit of collaboration between the city administration and the community it serves. With the project behind us, those at the Carriage Classic are happy for a lush and beautiful space to host future activities.

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