By Mark McGee 

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – Celebration fans were invited to wear hats to add to the festivities of a competition packed first Saturday night of the 83rd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. They needed to hold onto them with so much excitement ahead. 

It was a humid late August evening, but the competition was even hotter with 14 classes in “The Big Oval”, including two splits for Three-Year-Old Walking Mares, the Aged Stallions and the Yearling World Grand Championship. 

Ronnie Spears rode white flag horse White Diamond Dollar into the ring. After finding a spot at the north end of the stands, the duo paused for a special announcement. The Celebration has been working closely this year with the Gold Star program which honors families who have lost children in military service. Announcer Mark Farrar honored the 13 latest Gold Star families by reading the names of those lost while serving their country in Afghanistan this week. 

After a moment of silence for the 13, the invocation was presented by Lance Bennett of the Fairlane Church of Christ. Stephen Smith from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, presented a glorious rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. 

Shelbyville Mayor Wallace Cartwright proclaimed Saturday “Keon Johnson Day” in honor of the former Webb School and University of Tennessee star who was selected 21st in the NBA Draft by the New York Knicks who traded him to the Los Angeles Clippers. Johnson was joined by several family members in the center ring and was escorted by Jeffrey Howard, publisher of “The Walking Horse Report”. 

All eight listed in the program were ready for the coveted Lead Line World Grand Championship. Making the first spotlight ride of this year’s Celebration was the team of Vivian Woodruff of Shelbyville, Tennessee, and Rattle & Snap. It was the fifth blue in a row for the team. Queen Elizabeth was reserve with Lexi Grace Cofer riding and her grandmother Dee Yoder serving as the handler. Wylder Way was third aboard Band Wagon with sister Jayden Jackson at the lead.

There were 19 entries in the program, but only seven entered the ring for call judge Brent Grider in the Owner-Amateur Ladies on Geldings class. A Pink Floyd and Lisa Baum won the world championship in the class for the second year in a row. Manning quarterbacked a reserve tie with Taylor Walters riding for Kelsey Andrews. Reservation On Line took home a yellow streamer with Gayle Holcomb aboard.

David Sisk was the call judge with 10 of 15 scheduled entries competing in Division A of the Three-Year-Old Mares class. RBG was ridden to the world championship by Ryan Blackburn for Molly Smith from Manchester, Kentucky. Second place honors went to the Connie Hess owned entry of I Am Bold And Spicy Jose and Tyler Baucom. Rounding out the top three spots was Tanner Burks and A Sweet Emotion for Danny and Kathy Hicks.
Riley Gregory, winner of the Auxiliary Equitation Youth World Grand Championship Saturday morning, rode around “The Big Oval” after Division A of the Three-Year-Old Walking Mares. Gregory is 12-for-12 in 2021, which includes the Auxiliary Equitation Youth 15-17 (Canter) World Championship Wednesday morning.

Half of the 12 listed entries competed in the English Park Pleasure class. Custom Chrome JB was polished and ready for the world championship ride with Chris Zahnd aboard for Savannah Upchurch from Monticello, Kentucky. He’s A Dixieland Delight tied second with Jeff Laughlin in the saddle for Vickie Penick. Jose’ No Counting Me Out walked out with the yellow ribbon with Patrick Thomas in the irons for Gladney Farms. Chris Bobo was the call judge.

Dale Watts was the call judge as five of 17 programmed entries made the gate call for Division B of the Three-Year-Old Mares class. My Honey Bee stung the competition with a world championship performance that received the unanimous approval of the judges for rider Josh Wright and owners the Allan Riddley Family of Kings Mountain, North Carolina. It was their fourth blue in five shows in 2021. Our Girl Charlie tied second with Tyler Baucom riding for Tara Rhoades. C’Me Walk And Shake walked to third place award with Tanner Burks in the irons for Sister Milligan. Cash Honors was fifth with Slim Moore riding. A 53-year veteran of the walking horse industry, but this was Moore’s first Celebration show ring appearance.

The Owner-Amateur Novice Youth 12-17 class welcomed 19 of 24 scheduled entries with Derek Bonner calling the class. The Megalodon and Hunter Graves won their first ever Celebration world championship for co-owner Tim Brown. The King Of Queens tied reserve with Frank Clark aboard for Richard Lawson and The Clark Family. Generated By Folsom was ridden to third by Daniel Schmidt for Larry and Elsie West.

Seventeen of 22 program entries appeared for the Owner-Amateur Novice Gentlemen on Stallions class. Brent Grider was the call judge. Twisted With Honors and Howard Eastridge of Columbia, Kentucky, walked away with a Celebration world championship for the first time. It was their third blue ribbon in a row for 2021. Fly Dragonfly and Dr. Shannon Harr took reserve, while Alfa Romeo was tuned up for a yellow ribbon with Gary Kiser. 

Eight entries made the gate for the Yearling World Grand Championship. Dale Watts was the call judge. Cash Kid and Marty Warren continued their winning ways with the floral horseshoe for owners Steve and Denise Smith of Brentwood, Tennessee, and Gary and Karen Doss of Minford, Ohio. The pair won the world championship in the Yearling Colt class Friday morning and the National Futurity Yearling Colt Championship Wednesday night. They are undefeated in nine shows this season. Reserve was She’s Walkin’ On Fire with Claire Hankins for Bruce Vaughn. Black Gin Desperado tied third with Robert Nelms as the handler for Travis Hale and Ricky Atnip. 

Ten of the 11 entries competed in the Owner-Amateur Youth 6-14 Ponies class. Skywalk’s Threat and Alex Luttrell of Alvaton. Kentucky, took home the world championship. The Country Lineman and Maxine Beasley tied second for Beth Beasley. Rammer Jammer WDE and Ashtyn Claire Brown walked away with the yellow streamer for co-owners David and Patty Wilson. David Sisk was the call judge. 

As a cool breeze began to cool the night air four of the scheduled six entries made their way to the big oval for the Western Lite-Shod class. Dale Watts was the call judge. Big Time Bandit was a big-time winner with unanimous world championship honors with Patrick Thomas riding for Lisa Baum of Shelbyville, Tennessee. A world champion in 2019 and 2018, they have three blues in 2021. The Red Falcon received the red ribbon with Jamey Thompson in the irons for Joyce Hofstee. Lil Wayne and Ryan Gannon rode out with a yellow streamer for the Gannon and Roberson partnership.

The Owner-Amateur Novice Gentlemen on Mares & Geldings class featured 20 of 28 original entries with Chris Bobo serving as the call judge. Miss Stone’s Cash and Noel Botsch from Shelbyville, Tennessee, are novices no longer after their first Celebration world championship ride. Grayton Beach and Jake Jacobs tied reserve for owner Ally Jo Jacobs. I’m A Mastermind and Jack Heffington were third.

With the crowd standing and clapping to the “Flat Walk Boogie” all five original entries in Division A of the Aged Stallions class slowly entered the ring for call judge Brent Grider. Really Coach? was the answer as the world champion with Rodney Dick aboard for Russell Enterprises and Carol Missildine from Smithfield, North Carolina. They are four-for-four in blue ribbons for 2021. Joe Pa was reserve with Winky Groover in the saddle for Brian and Tanya Strickland and The Shane Porterfield Family. Mach I was the third tie with Jimmy McConnell riding for Donnie and Charlotte Taylor. 

Derek Bonner was the call judge as 11 of 16 program entries competed in the Owner-Amateur Five-Year-Old Mares & Geldings class. The appropriately named Honor My Country took home the world championship with Stephanie White in the irons for Toni White of Eatonton, Georgia. They have wins in four-of-five shows this season. A Master’s Degree W and Jacquelyn Way tied second for Jack Heffington. Jose’s Lily Rose was ridden to a yellow ribbon by Scott Tew for Kimble and Madeline Tew.

Before the final class of the night Henry Hulan III was honored for his work through the years with the Celebration with the Henry Lloyd Adamson Humanitarian Award.

The fans were up and cheering to the second stanza of the “Flat Walk Boogie” as all six entries were in the ring for Division B of the Aged Stallions class. Minor Ordeal was a major winner with the world championship. Tyler Baucom rode for Mona Dean from Raleigh, North Carolina. They have three blues in four shows this year. Jose’ Revival and Casey Wright were reserve for Billy and Debbie Woods. A Big Honor left the ring with yellow streamer with Ryan Blackburn on board for Dwight Hopper.