Marsh tacky horse races held for the first time on Daufuskie Island on Saturday were a "remarkable success," organizers said this week.
Between 1,000 and 1,200 people watched the fifth annual Marsh Tacky Beach Race from along the beach and from boats anchored just offshore, said Jackie McFadden of the Carolina Marsh Tacky Association, which sponsors the event.
Fourteen marsh tackies, a breed slightly smaller than a standard horse that originated in the South Carolina and Georgia Sea Islands, competed in the quarter-mile sprint.
While attendance was higher than expected, it was substantially lower than previous years when the races were on Hilton Head Island, McFadden said. Daufuskie, unlike Hilton Head, has no bridge access, requiring horses and spectators to travel there by boat.
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The horses traveled for free, but tickets cost up to $50 per person for a round-trip ferry ride. Once riders were on the island, the races were free to watch.
"Everybody liked going there, and that is a very good possibility that we will be back there next year," McFadden said, noting that the venue still could change.
"I would love for it to be a race that everyone can attend, and it is expensive to get to the island. That is one of the things we are going to talk about."
Jack Friday won the stallion division and also the Marsh Tacky Cup as the fastest horse in the competition. Sweet Home Alabama won the gelding division, and Salt Creek Annie won the mare division.
The only hiccup occurred when Wylie Bell of Bennettsville was thrown from her horse and broke her collarbone.
"They put her on a water taxi and took her to Hilton Head, where they patched her up and sent her back for the after-race party," McFadden said. "She's tough."
Erica Veit, who works for Melrose on the Beach and is a member of the marsh tacky association, said the races capped a successful weekend for Daufuskie businesses. All available lodging and golf-cart rentals were booked, she said.
Wick Scurry, owner of J&W Corp., which hauled the horses over by barge and also ran a ferry from Hilton Head Island, estimated about 500 people traveled to the island on his ferry. Private boats were stacked two-deep at the island's two marinas, he said.
"It was a great day, no question about that. People all over the island were coming to it," he said.
Several vendors also reported strong sales, said island resident Roger Pinckney, who helped organize the event.
"I believe cultural and historic tourism is clearly the future for Daufuskie," he said in an email. "It's non-consumptive. We can promote and utilize our cultural resources and still have Daufuskie left when we are done."
Video of Saturday's races:
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.