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Monday, November 29, 2021

Fair Hill 5* to be first event as renovated Fair Hill allows new turf track to mature

ELKTON, Md.--Fair Hill has grown by leaps and bounds, building a new race course and a new 3-day event course in a new area while incresing its rating from a 4* to a 5*, one of only two  in the United States.

Fair Hill turf courseFair Hill turf course (Photo courtesy of Fair Hill)In February, the Fair Hill Organizing Committee, an affiliate of the Sport and Entertainment Corporation of Maryland announced the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill has added equestrian industry veteran, Connie Sawyer and event industry veteran, Dan Laufer to its leadership team.

Sawyer will serve as the event’s Broadcast Production Director and Laufer as its Director of Operations.

The inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill takes place this Oct. 14-17 at the new Fair Hill Special Event Zone in Cecil County, Md.

Meanwhile, the Fair Hill Races will not be held in this May to allow the new turf surface to fully mature.

While the new track is lush and green, turf experts say it needs more time before it is ready for flat and jump racing events.


THROUGH A $20 million public-private partnership between the State of Maryland and the Fair Hill Foundation, upgrades to the historic one-mile track were completed last year including a new irrigation system, distance poles, finish pole and running rails, as well as widened turns.

Uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic and the various public health and safety regulations in place also impacted race planning and scheduling this spring, so as a result, 2021 became an opportune time to let the turf course continue its progression into a world-class racing venue.

“While it is disappointing that we will not be able to host the races this spring, we know that holding off and letting the new surface develop properly is the right decision,” said Charles C. Fenwick, Jr., President and CEO. “We want to ensure the course will be stable and secure for many decades to come. When the course was first constructed in 1928, William du Pont, Jr. waited six years before allowing horses on the track for the same reason. With today’s technology, we do not expect the maturing process to take nearly that long.”

The Turf Course at Fair Hill is part of the newly constructed equestrian Special Event Zone at Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area in Cecil County.

Owned by the State of Maryland, the venue also features a new Ian Stark-designed cross-country course, updated timber course and new competition arenas built within the turf track’s infield.

The inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill will be the first event to take place in the Special Event Zone this October 14-17.

“While we let the turf course develop fully, we will remain focused on delivering the best Maryland 5 Star we can to showcase our new top-class venue here at Fair Hill,” Fenwick said.

To this end, Sawyer will be leading all aspects of the broadcast production and streaming of the Maryland 5 Star.

She brings vast experience in the equestrian industry to the event, having served in various roles associated with international events throughout her career.

In addition to her new position with the Maryland 5 Star, Connie works as the Manager of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup North American League and is the Fédération Equestre Internationale Events Manager for North America.

Sawyer works with the FEI to assist in the North American implementation of television and streaming production, distribution, and on-site logistics at the Longines FEI Jumping events as well as the implementation and delivery of Longines rights and Longines FEI Jumping World Cup and Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Series brand standards.

Laufer will be responsible for directing all event overlay and operational logistics for the Maryland 5 Star in close coordination with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources at the new Fair Hill Special Event Zone.

His career spans over 20 years in the production of large-scale indoor and outdoor events.

He has been Director of Operations for the Citi Open, an ATP/WTA combined pro tennis event since 2006.

Other recent events Laufer has worked with include tennis’ U.S. Open and Miami Open, NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway, NCAA Basketball’s Vancouver Showcase, and the opening of the National African American Museum History Museum.

“We are thrilled to have Connie and Dan join our team because they will provide us with a very high-level of expertise within their particular areas,” said Jeff Newman, President and CEO of the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill. “I have known Dan for many years and worked closely with him on other major sporting events. He is someone we can lean on and trust to ensure logistics and operations run smoothly during our inaugural year. Connie will not only help us oversee and produce a high-quality broadcast and livestream for viewers, she brings so much added value with her deep event background and extensive relationships in equestrian sports.”

Sawyer and Laufer join the other members of the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill’s leadership team including Kaitlyn McNerney, Event Director - Partnerships & Experiential, Kaleigh Collett, Event Manager - Marketing, Promotion & Competition Management, Marissa Melzer, Event Manager - Operations, Tickets & Hospitality, Competition Director, Mary Coldren and Communications Director, Chris Daley.

Additional information about the leadership team is available on the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill’s website at

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