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Equestrian festival comes to town

World-class grand prix show-jumper riders from the United States, Canada, Europe and South America and their remarkable horses are in town for the 30th annual Winter Equestrian Festival.

The $3-million, 10-week event, which begins and ends in West Palm Beach, moves to Tampa for two weeks each year with more than 400 riders and 1,000 horses. The festival also features children and young adults in pony classes and amateur hunter-jumper competitions.

Besides the competition, there are outdoor vendors offering horse-related wares from fine jewelry to baseball caps. And those who attend can watch training and warm-up exercises.

The festival is at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center, Florida State Fairgrounds, Tampa, every Wednesday to Sunday through March 31. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 adult, $3 seniors age 65 and older and youth ages 13 to 18 Wednesday through Friday; $8 adult, $5 seniors and youth Saturday and Sunday.

The main events include the $75,000 Grand Prix of Tampa at 2 p.m. Sunday in the grand prix field and a $30,000 Ariat Challenge Cup on March 28 in the grand prix field. Call Stadium Jumping at (813) 253-2782 or toll free at 1-877-909-9436 for competition times.

The country's premier equestrian event, the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational, will be at 7 p.m. March 30 at Raymond James Stadium. Advance tickets are $25, $15 and $50 for a family four-pack. The day of the event, tickets are $30, $20 and $60 for the family four-pack. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster or Stadium Jumping. Or check

_ CHRISTINA K. COSDON, Times staff writer