With a week to go before the staging of the 2016 Dundee July Rural Horse Riding Festival in Dundee, the MEC for Arts, Culture, Sport and Recreation, Bongi Sithole-Moloi is excited about the positive impact of the race on the lives of ordinary citizens of the northern KwaZulu-Natal town.
The event will be held on Saturday, 16 July, at the Dundee Horse Racing field in the Endumeni Municipality.
The race is the only major event in the Umzinyathi District, which is famous for its historic sites, and is arguably the biggest rural horse riding event in South Africa. It is expected to attract a crowd of over 15 000 spectators who will flock to Dundee for a weekend of sport, fun and excitement.
MEC Sithole-Moloi says the event is in line with national and provincial government priorities of bringing development to rural areas.
“I am looking forward to an exciting weekend of traditional horse riding contests, coupled with fashion and entertainment throughout the day,” she said. “The Dundee July is not just an event, but it is an integral part of the Department of Sport and Recreation programme of providing recreation opportunities especially for our youth, to achieve our vision of an active and winning province through sport and recreation.”
The race attracts jockeys and horses from the Province’s 11 Districts who will be competing for honours in eight races, including national and international races. An all-female race will feature for the first time as part of efforts to encourage the participation of women in horse riding.
“Rural horse riding is no longer just a past time for rural people, but through the intervention of the Department and our partners it is now providing a livelihood for both horse owners and jockeys. The event itself has grown beyond just a horse riding contest. It is now a major tourism attraction for the northern KwaZulu-Natal region, thus boosting the local economy. Restaurants, bread and breakfast establishments, hotels and other enterprises will make good business throughout the weekend,” said MEC Sithole-Moloi. She said the race also contributes to job creation and social cohesion.
A multi-cultural Street Carnival through the streets of Dundee on Friday, 15/07 –which is organized by the Department of Arts and Culture - will kick-start the festivities, showcasing the Province’s kaleidoscope of cultural heritage through fashion, horses, bikers and motorcades.
LOC state of readiness
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the annual Dundee July Rural Horse Riding Race led by the KZN Department of Sport and Recreation is confident of pulling off a successful event this year.
The chairperson of the LOC Mike Mthembu said preparations for the race have been thorough and have taken all factors into consideration.
Last year the horse racing contest had to be called off at the last minute to avert the endangerment of the participating horses due to wet weather. However the fashion shows and entertainment continued. Mthembu says they are watching the weather and other unforeseen situations very closely this year.
He added that a number of improvements have been made in relation to infrastructure upgrade, with the race track precinct now fenced off and access controls put in place. He said security has been beefed up. He advised patrons to avoid bringing dangerous weapons and alcohol.
All participating districts have finalized their district selections.
The hosting Umzinyathi District in particular is confident of impressing in the main Grade 1 and International races which are normally dominated by the jockeys from outside South Africa, in particular Lesotho. However competition is expected to be stiffer this year and there will be a biggest pool of outsiders, with confirmed participation including horses from Free State, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape.
Treasurer of the Rural Horse Riding Association, Mdubane Gama says they expect an improved level of competition among horses especially since there will be a high number of competitors from outside the Province.
“We have so many improvements this year in terms of entertainment and the standard of horses that will be racing has improved compared to last year. People who will come to the event must expect a safe and world class event that will be very beautiful as well,” said Gama.
Tourism and small business
Local business, especially the tourism industry, will benefit from the hosting of the Dundee July. Hotels and other accommodation establishments have reported a full occupancy rate for the Dundee July weekend – which is a usual occurrence during this period annually. Restaurants are also preparing themselves for the influx of visitors who will patronize their establishments.
Local small businesses are also set for a trade boom as they have been provided with trading stalls to sell their merchandise. Training has been provided on hygiene and other regulatory requirements.
Betting facilities will also be provided for racing enthusiasts with banking partners, Ithala Bank, providing pay-out and ATM services.
About the Dundee July
The organized Dundee July race was first initiated in 2005 following a request by the then Premier Sbu Ndebele. The stature and size of the race has increased over the years with attendance figures growing from an initial figure of 1500 in 2005 to about 15 000 in the previous years. The festival showcases the African style of horse racing called trotting or pacing (ukutelebhela).
An impact study conducted in 2012 showed that the hosting of the Dundee July contributes immensely to tourism, local economic growth and job creation.
A total of eight races are planned for the day, starting at 10H00. A lady’s race will be featured this year to encourage women participation in the racing industry.
One of the top races is categorised as a national event featuring top race horses, and the last race of the day will be an international race.
Priorities for this year include infrastructure improvement, enhanced safety and security, traffic management and benefits for local business. Local fashion designers and artists will be featured and are benefiting from empowerment workshops to prepare them for the big day. It’s an experience not to be missed.