Mississippi Horse Park Director Bricklee Miller discusses the facility's 20th anniversary at the Starkville Rotary Club meeting Monday.

The Starkville Rotary Club heard a talk celebrating 20 years of an institution that has brought economic development and other recognition to the area through bringing in large rodeos and other events.

Mississippi Horse Park Director Bricklee Miller gave a talk marking 20 years of the Horse Park and its growth over the time period. Miller has been director of the Horse Park through its entire existence, and is a member of the Starkville Rotary Club. She also serves as Oktibbeha County District 4 supervisor.

“When we started off just as an idea on paper, and then we were four metal buildings on a gravel road, and look where we are today," Miller said.

Miller said the idea for the horse park came as part of several across the state led by former Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Jim Buck Ross.

“He believed the outside of a horse was good for the inside of a man, and every community should have one of these to generate economics and tourism, those types of things as well,” Miller said. “During that time there was actually $15 million allocated for the state for projects, and the municipalities in our state matched that and exceeded that by $3.5 million.”

She said at the time, there were 72 publicly-funded arenas in 64 Mississippi counties at a value of $70 million. The Mississippi Horse Park was created using different funds as a partnership between Starkville, Oktibbeha County and Mississippi State University.

“We were created on two state bonds and a partnership between the city, the county and the university,” Miller said.

She also said the first event held at the park was a fair in 1999. The park hosted 23 events in its first year. The figure has gone up to 134 last year. Since 2001, the horse park has added approximately $43 million in investment, and has hosted 965 events so far. The first time the arena sold out was a motocross show on Jan. 20, 2006.

“Diversity has been the key to our success, and we know that,” Miller said. “Every facility has

something that makes it unique, but it doesn’t matter in this community what you like to do. You can probably find something at the Horse Park that you would enjoy.”

The horse park has been recognized with various awards for, and has also been featured in numerous rodeo, equine and other publications over the years. Many of these awards and features are displayed in the Horse Park’s “walk of fame.”

“You can walk down the wall, and you can see our progress, and you can see how we have affected people here in this community, how promoters have affected people, how events have affected people positively, and how we’ve brought people in from across the country.”

In addition to the program, the club received a $2,000 donation from Starkville Oktibbeha Achieving Results (SOAR) to support its young leaders program.

The club will not meet next Monday due to the Labor Day holiday.

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