HITS [Horse Shows In The Sun] will be starting its season late in Saugerties because of the coronavirus pandemic. The season was originally scheduled to begin May 20, but shows scheduled for May and June were canceled because of New York State’s prohibitions on public gatherings. Other parts of the country have been less strict. HITS now plans to open its season in Chicago early in June after planned May events had to be canceled.
In a video update, HITS president and CEO Tom Struzzieri, wearing a cloth mask over his nose and mouth, says his plans to begin the Saugerties summer season in June had to be scrapped “with regard to the rigorous standards established by New York State.” State health regulations currently puts limits on the types of businesses allowed and the number of people who could congregate at events.
“Although I consider this a huge disappointment, and a step backward, it gives me great incentive to push — and I mean push — the rest of the Saugerties season,” Struzzieri states in the video. “Our plan now is to make the great American summer series in Saugerties the most fabulous circuit in the world, with unparalleled prize money, and it gives us extra time to make dramatic improvements to the facility that will be unrivaled in quality.”
The most recent press release from HITS lays out a program of shows that include some events from the Vermont Summer Festival [VSF]. The first two shows on the HITS schedule are the VSF Summer Special, from July 1 to July 5, followed by the Manchester Classic, July 8 to 12. These are followed by three HITS-on-Hudson events running from July 15 through August 2, with a VSF finale, August 5 to August 9. HITS spokeswoman Kristen Vale-Mosack said all the events would be held at the HITS facility in Saugerties.
VSF had decided it could not hold any part of its season in Vermont this summer because of the virus. Rather than canceling completely, the firm decided to work with HITS to salvage at least a part of the season.
There’s an Internet rumor that HITS might be taking over VSF within the next year or two. Vale-Mosack would neither confirm nor deny it. “I can’t comment on this,” she said.
HITS started with a single horse show in Florida in 1982. As well as its operations in Saugerties, the company has venues in Florida, California, Arizona and Virginia, as well as its most recent acquisition, the Lamplight Equestrian Center near Chicago, where HITS began its season in June.
Struzzieri said he intended to use the period the Saugerties venue must remain closed to spruce up the facility and increase its attractiveness to patrons who will be participating in and attending events.
In addition to the HITS show site, Struzzieri owns the Diamond Mills Hotel, conference center and restaurant complex in Saugerties, and the Saugerties Steamboat Co. on the shore of the Esopus Creek. While the restaurant in the Diamond Mills complex is closed because of regulations related to the coronavirus, Struzzieri has been donating gourmet meals to people in need at the Saugerties unit of the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Attempts to reach Struzzieri directly were unsuccessful.