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Big party planned to draw Equestrian Games visitors

When she read that the World Equestrian Games would bring thousands of well-heeled fans to Mill Spring, Darlene Das wondered what Hendersonville was doing to host them.

“Every one of our hotels are totally booked and we have nothing going on on Main Street to entertain these people that are coming from all over the world,” she said.
Thus was born a big party. Almost single-handedly, Das has organized a big concert and fireworks show on Saturday, Sept. 15, the first weekend of the two-week World Equestrian Games, which is expected to draw more than 100,000 fans to Polk County. Hundreds have room reservations in Hendersonville.
“Instead of going to Greenville, Asheville or Charlotte, they can come here” for dinner, says Das, who worked as a surgical assistant for her husband, orthopedic surgeon Amal K. Das Jr., for 18 years before becoming an employment consultant.
When she first hatched the idea, Das realized a lot of factors needed to fall into place. Luckily, they did. She checked with the city and found out that the company that provides the Rhythm & Brews stage could provide the big flatbed that night. The Tourism Development Authority endorsed it. Last week, the city’s Downtown Advisory Committee unanimously recommended approval by the City Council, which takes up the request on Aug. 2.
Das recruited the Swinging Medallions, a popular oldies and beach music band from the South Carolina Upstate. The headliner band wanted Das to book a warmup band, so she’s doing that. The Medallions committed to two 70-minute sets on either side of intermission.
If Darlene Das has any say, the world will know “that we don’t go to sleep at 9 o’clock and close up our doors,” she says. Too often, she and her husband encounter tourists who want to browse and shop on Main after dinner. “I can’t believe the shops are closed,” they say. “I guess we’ll go to Greenville tomorrow.”
“And then they’re gone.”

Beth Carden, the TDA’s executive director, said Das has done most of the legwork herself.
“She wanted to do it for the community and for those coming here for the games,” Carden said. “We’re at the point to encourage the community to step up and do things like this. She’s funding it. It’s her idea. She ran it by us, we said it sounded like a good idea so she took it and ran with it. There’s going to be good amount of people here (from the Tryon Equestrian Center). They finish every day at 6 o’clock so when they turn them loose they’ll be coming to Hendersonville to eat and find things to do.”
Das still has to get approval from the Board of Commissioners for a fireworks show that would be launched from Jackson Park and visible from downtown, like the county Fourth of July show. Her request is on the board’s Aug. 6 agenda.
Das is underwriting the event herself and recruiting sponsors. She’s calling it the “End of Summer Music on Main.” Like the Friday night Music on Main — and unlike Rhythm & Brews — there’s no booze at this party. Das says she didn’t have time to work on getting the ABC permits. She does plan to sign up a food trucks, although not so many that they would encroach on business at the brick-and-mortar restaurants.
“I am going to be one of the sponsors but also have other people,” she says. “I am going to get it fully sponsored so it will be free for everyone. If it goes off well, we can build on it next year. It just so happens everything kind of clicked into place all at same time. I think it’s an event that’s meant to be.”