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How Does Steeplechase Impact the Arts? Q&A with 2020 Race Director, Ellen Lane

Story by Carrie Beth Wallace

Everyone knows Steeplechase as the "Race for the Arts" in Columbus, Georgia, but what exactly does that mean? How does a horse race impact the arts? And why?

We corresponded with Ellen Lane, Race Director for this year's Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens, to learn more about how the event actually impacts its beloved local arts beneficiaries. Read on to discover where the proceeds go, why Steeplechase funds differ in their structure, and how each of us can make an impact by helping Steeplechase raise support for the arts this year.

Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens 2020 Race Director, Ellen Lane.

Q: How does Steeplechase benefit the arts organizations it supports? 

A: We are so happy to be able to help our local art organizations which play a vital role in making our city the wonderful place it has grown to be. These arts organizations provide entertainment, education, and events that are accessible for so many - from college students, to families with small children, to our senior citizens, and everybody in-between.

The funds received are important because they are unrestricted which allows them to use it in the best serve their needs. Many use it for educational programs. We think this is one of many great things about our event.

Q: Do you know the amount that was raised last year for the beneficiaries?

A: Last year, Steeplechase raised over $100,000 for our beneficiaries. 

Q: What are the best ways people can be involved this year in helping to raise funds for the arts?

A: We hope that our community will rally around this event and our local art organzations. People can help us raise funds by purchaising tickets and coming out on Race Day. There are lots of great options for tickets/seating available.

Of course, if you can't attend the event we would still love your support. One way would to be to purchase a raffle ticket. This year there are 750 available raffle tickets. They may be purchased on-line or by calling the Steeplchase office (706-324-6252). Each ticket is $100 and gives you a chance to win a $5000 Travel Certificate for a trip of your choice planned by Frances Boyce at Columbus Travel. The voucher is good for 18 months. Who isn't ready to get away these days? 

Our Raffle Chairmen, Sara Varner and Alice Varner, are doing a great job so don't wait too late to purchase your chance for a trip - I know they will sell out! (Watch their hilarious new video series about Steeplechase featuring Marnie and Edna here.)

Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens 2020 Race Art by Julianne David.

Q: What do you love most about this year's Race Art?

A: Well, one reason I love it is because my super talented, sweet friend did it. I’ve loved watching Julianne David grow as an artist and I’m so excited that she was able to contribute this year’s art. I love the painting she did- it’s watercolor which is different than some of our past paintings and I think it was a wonderful medium to use. It has soft, beautiful colors. I also loved that she captured the horses and jockeys in front of the tower. That tower is such a landmark and icon for the event. 

Q: Since there's not a silent auction, will this year's painting be sold? How will this work?

A: This year's art will be auctioned in the Guarantor's Tent- someone is going to be taking home a gorgeous piece of framed art!

Q: What would you like our audience to know about Steeplechase this year?

A: We are following COVID-19 restrictions and recommendations to make this event fun and safe for everyone. We know that people are ready to get outside, enjoy good weather, and feel a little bit of normalcy during this crazy year.

Because of that, some of our Race Day favorites like the Hat Contest, the Stick Pony races, Silent Auction, and the Jack Russell Races won't take place. But that doesn't mean the day isn't going to be fun- we've got lots of great spaces for people to watch some great horse races while vising with friends. Visit our website at to find out more about Race Day and our safety precautions.

Personally, I'm so excited to be involved in this event. It's something I've attended often during my life, however, as an adult, I can truly appreciate this event for what it is. Yes, it is always a fun day with friends and family in a gorgeous setting. But it's also a large fundraiser for six local art organizations that need our support more than ever.

2020 has been a tough year for everyone, but I know it has been especially hard on our local arts organizations. Shows and performances have been canceled, as well as educational programs, summer camps, and activities. These organizations have had to cancel or postpone their own fundraisers and face dwindling donations. They truly need our support more than ever.

The work our beneficiaries do touches so many people, and Steeplechase happily works hard to put on this event to support them every year. How lucky is our community that 36 years ago Mason Lampton had a desire to use horse racing, something he loved to do, to support the arts organizations he loves and continues to believe in. It is an honor to be the Race Director and continue this wonderful tradition this year. ◼︎

For more information on Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens click here.


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