Skip to content

Were you there when...



Anyone who has been to the Celebration for a number of years will always remember special moments. Some will remember the weather, some will remember the great horses and riders while most will remember the funny and unusual things that happened. Here are a few notables. If you talk to some Celebration veterans, they will expound on the moments listed here and probably provide many more.

Will anyone ever forget?

The year was 1969 and Marvin Wilson won the Championship Stake on Ebony’s Senator. Spectators were standing in water a foot deep and the water under the bleachers was up to the axles on the trucks. The power went out and officials were forced to use a spotlight so the horses could continue to compete. Most people just rolled their pants legs up and stayed to watch the Stake. The rain was so heavy there was water sloshing in their shoes and the double deck bleachers were swaying from the high winds. Coolers were floating to the other end of the ring. Cars were stuck in the mud (that was before they had concrete). Senator lost three shoes and still won the Stake class that year. Ten years later, in 1979 it rained every night of the Celebration.

As a fitting tribute in 1979, Judy Tillet’s father graciously donated funds to have the ring resurfaced with gravel.

What a Celebration!

The dual between Strolling Jim and Lilly White was fierce as they competed for the World Grand Championship. During the class each horse displayed their gaits perfectly. To everyone’s surprise one Celebration judge stopped the show and asked to ride the top contenders before making a decision and tying the class. History was made that night as Strolling Jim took the victory lap.

The first Celebration was held on September 7-9, 1939, on the grounds of Shelbyville High School and the enthusiasm of the townspeople and the founders who made it successful was unequaled. As the Celebration developed, the warm up ring became a mini-celebration and spectators were as vocal as the horses warmed up, as they were during the class.

Exciting performances are unforgettable:

It was a stunning performance in 1960 when Mister Sensation, a multi world champion captured the Reserve World Grand Championship with master horseman Vic Thompson aboard. Mister Sensation also carried Steve Hill to a Reserve World Grand Championship in the Stake in 1956.

By 1959 the flat walk was faster and more animated than it had been in prior years and when the horses performed that running walk the crowd went wild. That was the year Rodger’s Perfection and Joe Webb won the World Grand Championship for owners Mr. and Mrs. Porter Rodgers.

The Touch won the World Grand Championship in 1993. After a relaxed flat walk the announcer called for the riders to take a deep seat for the final running walk. As The Touch came out of the south turn he seemed to float down the ring. The crowd went wild.

As an underdog all through the year, The Super Stock won in 1977, and the adulations and cheering from the crowd were unforgettable.

Dark Spirit’s Rebel and Bud Dunn were an unbeatable duo in 1992. The Frank Neal entry and his popular rider garnered a thunderous roar of the crowd; it was deafening.

And it rained and it rained…

I’m Dumas Walker captured the Owner-Amateur Three-Year-Old Stallion class in 1994. While the class was in the lineup a down pour started drenching the exhibitors. One exhibitor mentioned that there should be some rain coming soon. You could see everyone counting the miles and time it would take to get to Shelbyville. It was at that moment that the skies opened and a deluge of rain came down on everyone. Exhibitors were soaked to the skin. Just as suddenly as it appeared, the next class was called and it stopped raining!

Benny Johnson was assisting the 1992 Celebration judges on the first Thursday of the show. The rains were so drenching the numbers kept disappearing from his card before he could deliver them to the judges. That year Doc’s High Tribute won the Owner Amateur Championship with Brenda Wilson in the irons for Mr. and Mrs. D.L. Putnam. Of course the track was incredibly muddy.

Those crazy antics!

It was a crazy Celebration when Ebony’s Time Around was turned down at inspection and a band of men led by Jerry Lewis crashed the gate. They carried a banner with Ebony’s name on it and ran around the track. The crowd went wild.

The early to mid nineties saw a memorable incident when one lady and her horse jumped the gate and then jumped back in and continued the class. Several days later that rider celebrated the occasion by donning a shirt with a picture of the horse jumping out of the ring in front and jumping back in the ring on the back. The restaurant crowd broke out in unrestrained laughter and gave her a standing ovation!

Heavyweight champion of the world, George Foreman rode a snow white horse named Betsy’s Snowflake in the Celebrity class of the 1984 Celebration dressed completely in black. The result was stunning and the Celebration crowd loved it. Ebony and Ivory…

As you attend this year’s Celebration, take time to make your own memories and add to the list.

More Stories

  • A Mighty Strong Finish

    Going into the coveted World Grand Championship class Saturday night, Sept. 1, the field was somewhat wide-open for contenders riding for the biggest prize of the show. The preliminaries had given several horses a chance to shine, a few surprises emerged, and the judges were spread out with their opinions throughout the week, as was the crowd, demonstrating stiff competition. Read More
  • Oxford, NC show rescheduled

    North Carolina's PPWHANC Show scheduled for Oxford,N.C. on September 15th has been rescheduled; the new show date is September 29th with the same class schedule as previously presented.  Read More
  • #900 never to return to Celebration competition

    At the 79th anniversary of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, Bill Callaway and Gen’s Black Maverick rode into the ring on the last Saturday night to a roar of applause and cheering, and they exited the ring in the same fashion as they claimed the title of 2017 Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Champion... Read More
  • Obituary – Pat Kirk

    Pat Kirk, 89, of Purdy, Missouri entered into eternal rest on Tuesday September 11, 2018 while at Cox South Hospital in Springfield, Missouri.  Read More
  • Obituary - Burt Dale

    The Report has recently learned of the sudden passing of Burl Dale on September 18, 2018. A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, September 22 at 2:00 PM at Camp Yonahnoka in Linville, North Carolina. Read More
  • Allen honored with Evan Lloyd Adamson Humanitarian Award

    The Celebration and the Adamson family are proud to announce the 2018 winner of the Evan Lloyd Adamson award, Connie Allen, director of office operations for The Celebration. Read More
  • Stalls available for hurricane Florence evacuees

    The Celebration will make grounds and stalls available at NO CHARGE for horses evacuating the Carolina’s due to Hurricane Florence. To make arrangements to stall your horses please call 931-684-5915. Read More
  • Nelms becomes first to win all three model titles

    It didn’t take long for Robert Nelms to get noticed at this year’s Celebration. Right out of the gate he was busy leading his winning model entries into the Calsonic for both the morning classes of the show as well as the National Futurity, which serves as the first set of evening classes during Celebration week. Read More
  • Obituary – Noble Stout

    Noble Hooper Stout, Jr., 69, passed away Friday, September 7, 2018 at Cookeville Regional Medical Center. Noble was born in Jackson County on July 12, 1949 to the late Noble Hooper Stout and Mable Carter Stout... Read More
  • Celebration releases information on Tunica

    The Celebration has announced information about the fall edition of the popular Tunica show, to be held Nov. 1-3 at the Paul Battle Sr. Exposition Center, in particular, information about the horse show hotel and exhibitors’ party... Read More