New Albany Classic ends its 20-year run

Eric Lyttle
Columbus Monthly

The New Albany Classic is no more.

A letter was sent Tuesday afternoon to past volunteers of the New Albany Classic informing them that the wildly popular family day and equestrian event is “hanging up its helmet.”

The Classic, which was founded in 1998 by Abigail Wexner and took place each year on the lawn at the Wexner home in New Albany, raised more than $32 million to support the Center for Family Safety and Healing, making it the most productive fundraiser in the history of Grand Prix equestrian show jumping in the United States.

The event’s annual late September date became crowded in 2018 with the addition of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) World Equestrian Games September 11-23 in Tryon, North Carolina, in addition to popular competitions in Central Park and Kentucky, making it difficult for competitive riders and jumpers to fit the Classic into their busy schedules.

“The Classic has been a labor of love for all of us involved, and we simply could not be more proud of the impact of its success,” writes Abigail Wexner in an emailed statement. “Thousands of families have been helped as a result of the support of so many loyal sponsors, volunteers and guests. We are grateful for the participation of the equestrian community as well, who came to New Albany from across the country to compete. Retiring this event after a successful 20-year run represents an opportunity to develop something new, and I’m looking forward to exploring what’s next.”

According to the letter to volunteers, “The Center will continue to engage Classic donors and loyal volunteers in its mission. Ongoing support for the Center and the critical services it provides to victims of family violence will be accomplished through a combination of ongoing fundraising efforts and the establishment of an endowment fund. The Center’s Board of Directors, which is an affiliate of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, will explore and develop new ways to bring the community together through programming responding to and supporting victims of family violence.”

The Center for Family Safety and Healing began to take shape in April 2011 when the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence, founded in 1998 by Wexner, and the Center for Child and Family Advocacy, founded in 2001 as a partnership between Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Coalition, merged.

The Classic, which accounted for about a quarter of the Center for Family Safety and Healing’s annual revenue, has included tween-friendly concerts from the likes of Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato and Ariana Grande, along with lots of activities like face-painting, a petting zoo and dance performances. It typically draws around 15,000 guests.

It also includes about 30 of the world’s leading riders, who vie for $125,000 in prize money and a chance to add their names to the Authentic Cup as the winner of the prestigious FEI-sanctioned competition. Competitors named it the top specialty equestrian event in North America for four consecutive years.

“On behalf of the city of New Albany, I’d like to thank Abigail Wexner for her leadership and longstanding commitment to addressing the needs of Central Ohio families facing the challenges of domestic violence,” states New Albany Mayor Sloan Spalding in a release.

“We look forward as a community to doing our part to support the Center for Family Safety and Healing’s mission and the critical services the Center provide to Central Ohio families,” Sloan writes in his statement.