Marion County to celebrate 175 years with massive event

Area's unique history to be honored

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – If you're an equine enthusiast, then you probably already know which Central Florida county is famous for being named the horse capital of the world.

Marion County is the epicenter of the equine industry in Florida, and now, it's celebrating a huge milestone. 

On Saturday, officials will be holding a one-of-a-kind event to commemorate the county's 175th anniversary. 

A population of more than 350,000 people, rolling hills, oak trees, palms, and of course, more than 1,200 horse farms make up Marion County.

"We're one of the major thoroughbred raising and training centers actually in the world. There are almost 40,000 horses in Ocala and Marion County surrounding area and a total of 61 breeds," Louisa Barton, director of equine engagement for Marion County's Chamber and Economic Partnership, said.

Horses are big business there. In 2015, they commissioned a study to find out what the local economic impact was.

"At that time, it was $2.6 billion," Barton said.

And it's only going to grow. In 2021, the county will be opening the World Equestrian Center.

"That is a $250 million investment into the best equestrian center really in the world, with a five-star hotel, a stadium, several indoor arenas, over 1,700 stalls, all climate-controlled," Barton said. "There are breeders coming here from all over the world to bring horses here. We're also the area that has the most Paso Fino farms, horses and owners also in the USA."

Aleida Ortiz, co-owner of the United Paso Fino Show Horses farm in Summerfield, said they breed, train, show and market Paso Fino horses at the facility.

"The Paso Fino horses, we consider them the smoothest riding horses in the world. No two feet ever hit the ground at the same time, so it makes them extremely smooth because of that," Ortiz said.

It's all of this that has put Marion County on the map, recognized as the horse capital of the world, and now the county is celebrating 175 years.

To commemorate the huge milestone, county officials will host an event that includes horse exhibits, musicians and food, all for an over-the-top celebration that's expected to draw thousands of people to Ocala.

Marion County director of public relations Nick Zoller said it's an event you won't want to miss.

"Bounce houses for kids, live music, food trucks, there's just a ton for the whole family, and then after that event at 7 p.m. over at Veterans Park, we're going to have live music and fireworks," Zoller said.

It will be a celebration to recognize the area's impact in Central Florida and for people to take pride in everything it has to offer.

"I love that we are a people of community and that we still want to help and encourage each other as people in that community," Marylin Corsiglia, a volunteer for Marion County's Museum of History and Archaeology said.

Zoller said the event will highlight just how great Marion County really is.

"From our springs to our horses to just the friendly people that live here, Marion County is really just this gem within Central Florida that if you haven't lived here or haven't visited you really don't know what you're missing," Zoller said.

The big celebration takes place Saturday at 10 a.m. The event will be held at the McPherson Governmental Complex in Ocala.

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