Sunday, February 25, 2001

Spiral Festival returns to track

Events to lead up to stakes race

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FLORENCE — The Spiral Festival, a tradition linked to thoroughbred horse racing, is returning to Northern Kentucky after a 10-year hiatus.

        It will be a prelude to the $600,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on March 24.

        The festival is an outgrowth of the Spiral Stakes, which started 30 years ago to highlight the spring racing schedule of what was then called Latonia Raceway. The festival included dinners, dances and charitable fund-raisers. It was a top social event in Northern Kentucky.

        The original Spiral Festival began with a few events but grew to stretch almost two weeks before the race. Race track management ended it because they felt it had become unwieldy and required too many people to bring off all the events.

        The idea of reviving the festival and linking its events through the week to the Spiral Stakes was the brainchild of Turfway President Bob Elliston and Ted Bushelman, communications director at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and a chairman of the last Spiral Festival in 1991.

        “I was chairman of the last Spiral Festival before the management at Turfway decided they didn't want to do it any more,” Mr. Bushelman said.

        “I had been thinking about reviving the festival, and when I talked to Bob Elliston, he said Turfway had been thinking about the same thing. (He) is using the committee I put together as an advisory group, rather than having them do all the work. The first thing he told us was we didn't have to raise any money, which was good news.”

        The new Spiral Festival starts with a 5K run on Saturday, March 17, followed that evening by an alumni gala for Leadership Northern Kentucky/Leadership Cincinnati. During the week before the Spiral Stakes, there's a Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association dinner, the famous crawfish boil at the track and a luncheon during which the Spiral Stakes draw is held.

        Robert Forbeck, Turfway's marketing director, said the Spiral Festival could only help the track “because the more community involvement you can get, the better. We still continue to grow in crowd size for the spring race, despite the change of name a couple of times in the last few years. The festival can only help us with that growth.”

        The $600,000 Spiral Stakes — known for several years as the Jim Beam Stakes and one year as the Stakes, — is a Kentucky Derby prep for 3-year-old thoroughbreds, attracting some of the top horses in the country.

        It has produced a Kentucky Derby winner, Lil E. Tee in 1992, and three Preakness winners, Prairie Bayou in 1993, Hansel in 1991 and Summer Squall in 1990. Hansel also won the Jim Beam and the Belmont in 1991 and was the three-year-old male national champion that year.


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