Itís Celebration time in Tennessee
The 79th annual edition of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration kicks off on Wednesday, Aug. 23 with the Tennessee Walking Horse Breedersí and Exhibitorsí Association National Futurity. It will be held at the Calsonic Arena on the Historic Celebration grounds in Shelbyville, Tenn.
This is always the beginning of 11 days and nights of the top walking horses in the industry. A total of 20 classes will feature various types of horses vying for championship honors.
In the Futurity there will be 20 classes of Weanlings, County Pleasure, Trail Pleasure, Lite-Shod, Model Stallions, Mares and Geldings, Yearlings, Park Performance and 2- and 3-Year-Old Performance horses. The show begins at 6 p.m.
There are 10 classes that are divided into A & B divisions plus the 2-year-old stallions are once again in three divisions, A, B, and C. The aged stallion class on the first Saturday night is once again in two divisions. It is always a much anticipated class as the World Grand Champion has come from this class since 1980.
Entries this year total 2,064, compared to 1,975 in 2016. This is the third straight year of an increase and a rise of 15 percent above 2014 numbers. People in the industry see this as a positive sign that the walking horse industry is doing really well.
The judging panel for this year have a total of 13 years experience in the Celebrationís big oval arena. Two of the five judges will be making their first appearance, Scotty Brooks of Bowling Green, Ky., and Bill Reel of Harrisonburg, Va. The remaining judges have other Celebration-affiliated show experience in past years. Joining them are Jennifer Bingham of Crittenden, Ky., Chris Bobo of Shelbyville, Tenn., and David Landrum of Franklin, Tenn. It will be Binghamís seventh appearance, having judged every year between 2009 and 2015 except for taking a break in 2013. This will be Boboís third time, having served in 2014 and 2015. Landrum will also be making his third visit to the center ring, with his previous experience coming in 2014 and 2015. Landrum was also aboard the 1995 World Grand Champion, Prideís Sundance Star. They all have experience in halter, pleasure and performance divisions.
There have only been two 3-time WGC at the Celebration, Talk of the Town in 1951-52-53 and I Am Jose in 2013-14-15. Steve Hill of Beechgrove, Tenn., rode the former and Casey Wright of Reagan, Tenn., rode the latter.
Two-time winners included Haynes Peacock in 1940-41, Midnight Sun in 1945-46, Merry Go Boy in 1947-48 and Go Boyís Shadow in 1955-56.
The late Billy Gray has ridden four WGC, 1973 Delightís Bumminí Around from Ten-Tucky Farm in Lewisburg, 1982 Prideís Secret Threat, 1984 Delight of Pride and The Coach in 2010.
Locally, Doug Wolavar of Diana, Tenn., in Giles County rode three WGC, 1960 Mack Kís Handshaker, 1965 Triple Threat and 1967 Go Boyís Sundust and Steve Aymett of Lewisburg rode Docís High Tribute in 1988, and Knox Blackburn from Pulaski on Masquerading in 1998.
Five mares have won the WGC, Melody Maid in 1942, Black Angel in 1943, City Girl in 1944, Midnight Merry in 1949 and White Star in 1954.
The aged stallion preliminary class has a former WGC, three-time winner I Am Jose, a former Reserve WGC Genís Black Maverick entered. Jimmy McConnell has entries in both divisions, A division is Genís A Mighty and B division, last yearís Reserve WGC Heís Dark and Shady.
The reigning WGC Honors and Larry Edwards will probably make an appearance on the final Saturday night in an exhibition.
Mike Carpenter, from Franklin and a native of Giles County has judged the Celebration a total of 12 times, beginning in 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1988, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2009 and 2010. Rollie Beard of Belfast, Tenn., is next in line with eights trips to the center ring. His experience began in 1988, and followed in 1994, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2013 and 2014.
The Board of Directors of the Celebration are chosen from the membership of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration Association. The Asssociation is composed of various business people of Bedford County. The board serve without compensation and retire at age 70.
There are various activities during the show that will create interest for everybody. They include the Barn Decorating Contest, Dog Show, Barbeque Cookoff, Trade Fair, the annual Celebration Shootout Golf Tournament, Sunday Morning Worship, Dollar Night on Monday and Tuesday with the various civic clubs having a variety of items for a dollar, and on the second Friday night is a tribute to America where we honor our veterans and our flag.