Split Vote typifies how devisive horse show has become
Reprinted with permission of Newschannel 7, Panama City, FL
PANAMA CITY BEACH, FL, Jan. 24 - A couple of weeks ago beach leaders decided against giving an annual horse show the green light this year citing health and traffic concerns. Would the result be different the second time around?

By a three to two vote at Panama City Beach City Hall, the Beach City Council gave its ok to special events permit for the Gulf Coast Charity Celebration, better known locally as the horse show.

The split vote was very indicative of exactly how divisive the horse issue has become.

After the council turned down a permit application a couple of weeks ago, people on both sides of the issue got busy, establishing websites about the event, e-mailing and calling council members letting them know exactly how they feel.

Supporters of the horse show say it brings lots of people and money to the area during a traditionally slow time of year.

Critics say the whole event has become way too political, and animal rights activists say horses are abused at shows like the one in Panama City Beach.

Horse show supporters say that doesn't happen locally and federal officials are always on hand to make sure abuse doesn't happen.

Needless to say, horse show supporters are very happy with the council's vote.

The special events permit that was granted to the horse show is good for this year and this year only.

By next year, the land where the horse show is normally held will be encompassed by construction on the Pier Park project.

So if horse show organizers want to have the festival at the same that it's been for four years now, they'll have to work with the St. Joe Company.

Councilmen Bill Mathieu, Doug Gilmore and Councilwoman Gayle Oberst voted for the permit.

Councilwoman Linda Hardin and Mayor Lee Sullivan voted against issuing the permit.