Letter: Return To The Original Vision

The equestrian community was established by Bill Ylvisaker, with his promotion of polo, and by Gene Mische, with his horse show endeavor, which was steadily growing over 25 years. All was going along fine before Mark Bellissimo came upon the scene with his grandiose ideas.

Remembering these years, I have found myself reading with disgust the almost daily negative articles about the Wellington Village Council, which I am sure have been promoted by Mark Bellissimo and his cohorts who have been unrelenting in their struggle to achieve his personal agenda of expanding his commercial horse show enterprise at the expense of the health, safety and welfare of our community.

Perhaps if he functioned less like a “wild bull in a china shop” and did what is legally acceptable, namely obtaining the necessary permits in a timely fashion, the Village of Wellington would not be subjected to the unnecessary multiplying lawsuits we are now saddled with. Over the years that Mr. Bellissimo has been in Wellington, he has acquired over 300 code violations, “stop orders” and “do not enter” tags, many of which are new violations, all for the protection of our citizens and visitors. It is not surprising that under Gene’s control there were zero code violations and red tags.

Enter Mark and the code violations and the red tags suddenly appeared nonstop. Yet, he is quick to continue to blame the new village council for forcing him to sue; but let us not forget, that it was the previous “gang of three” — Bellissimo’s “gang of three” — that set the date for the required master plan submittal for the Equestrian Village site. It was Bowen, Priore and Gerwig who set the date of April 1 for the final date for the application, and it was the same three who stated what the penalty would be if this was not submitted on time. So if you want to blame anyone, blame Bowen, Priore and Gerwig. They voted unanimously for everything Mark wanted. It must have been a shock when Bowen lost and Mark’s “aces in the hole” dried up.

But let me return to the purpose for my letter. The horse show under Gene Mische had established itself as a dignified, family-oriented show, which was providing top-notch international competitors from around the world a winter home. He was so successful that one of the most well respected horse shows in the world, the Global Champions Tour, established by Jan Tops, choose the Winter Equestrian Festival as a stop for two years on his prestigious circuit — something our current organizer can only dream of having. Instead, Mr. Bellissimo has chosen to make a circus carnival of a once-respected sport. The sale of food and liquor, carousel rides, fire-eaters, jugglers, stilt walkers and clowns have become the norm. This is a far cry from the days when the Prince of Wales galloped the grounds of the polo fields. Bellissimo and his investors have transformed our once equestrian jewel that was fit for the sport of kings into an ill-managed facility not even fit for a circus sideshow. I am tired of the constant noise, the endless Saturday nights of no parking, carnival food smells, excess drinking and never-ending accidents for riders who are forced to endure the never-ending construction that should have been completed before the shows began. Where has the elegance gone?

Thankfully, we have a newly-elected council with a new mayor, dedicated to rectifying the mistakes of the old council and making the village transparent and accountable to its citizens, something we did not have before Bellissimo’s liaison with his “gang of three,” who let him run wild and function any way he wanted to.

Suffice it to say that Wellington will survive and prosper with or without Mark Bellissimo and his grandiose ideas of commercializing our precious land in the Equestrian Overlay Zoning District.

Carmen S. Paterniti


  1. Thank you for such a thoughtful, informed rebuttal Vanessa. It’s so tiresome hearing all the snipes and gripes and watching one hurdle after another put up by those who lost their royal pedestals when Gene stepped down. I’m sure Mark gets fed up with it as well. How humorous, yet sad, that they pretend all was harmonious back when. Like many, I am glad the former inner circles were shaken up and replaced. We hardly expected (or even wanted) them to go away quietly. But apparently being cooperative with a gracious, dignified manner was too much to ask of some as well…

  2. “This is a far cry from the days when the Prince of Wales galloped the grounds of the polo fields.” Thank God! In the USA we have fought the elitist image for so long-we can only wish that equestrian sports were as popular as they are in the rest of the world. Gene tried to change the image by having the GP riders wear polo shirts in the Sunday classes. As far as Topps showing up for two years-the “big name” riders here today far exceed anything that Gene could have wished for. Nick Skelton recently reported how wonderful it was that the entire British Gold Medal Olympic Team was able to train last year at WEF. Gene started one of the best shows anywhere in the world, but at the end it was virtually breaking apart. The division in the community was immense. WEF was close to moving out of Wellington altogether. Without Mark and his incredible partners-some of the most generous underwriters in our sport-we would have an empty showground today. Drawing crowds from the community outside of the equestrian community may disappoint those who prefer British nobility-but I’m thrilled that so many in the community of Wellington who never attended a show are now showing up to a weekly sell-out of seats and bringing the sport to the average spectator. With the enormous growth of the show comes logistic problems such as parking and traffic which hopefully will be resolved. Hey have you ever been to an NFL game? Big sporting events bring big crowds and often waiting times.Apparently the spectators feel it is worth it-the attendance is extraordinary and lots of ordinary folks. Bravo!

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