The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration Association held their annual meeting in January. The 40-member association meets annually to elect the seven person Board of Directors, to fill vacancies in the association membership and to hear reports from the Chief Executive Officer Ron Thomas and board committee chairmen.

D.B. “Buddy” Nelson, Jr., a local real estate appraiser, was elected to the board to replace the retiring Bob Garner, who had reached the mandatory retirement age. Other association members reelected to the Board include Chairman Virgil Johnson, John T. Bobo, David L. Howard, Bailey Little, Pat Marsh and Charles McDonald.

Elected to serve on the association were Ron Thomas and Thomas Smith, replacing Garner and Amie Boyd Marks. This brings the association membership to the maximum of 40 members. In addition to Johnson as chairman, the following officers were named: Vice Chairman - Pat Marsh; Treasurer John T. Bobo and Secretary David L. Howard.

Chairman Johnson also made the following committee appointments: Public Relations - Chairman David L. Howard and Pat Marsh; Facilities and Equipment - Chairman Charles McDonald and Virgil Johnson; Judges - Chairman Pat Marsh and Charles McDonald; Community Relations - Chairman John T. Bobo and D.B. Nelson, Jr.; Administration and Operations - Chairman Virgil Johnson, Bailey Little and Pat Marsh; and Budget and Finance - Chairman Bailey Little, David L. Howard and Bob Garner.

Ron Thomas’ remarks were highlighted by the announcement of a new Elite Owner-Amateur Division, for riders 50 and over, that will debut at this year’s Celebration. Thomas also announced that the Hall of Fame banquet would be held May 22, the night before the start of the Spring Fun Show. Also, for the first time, new inductees will be announced prior to the event.

Mr. Thomas also had high praise for retiring Board Chairman Bob Garner. “Bob will be greatly missed. He has chaired the board 3 times and has been through the good times as well as the tough times.”

Chairman Virgil Johnson, who had chaired the Facilities and Equipment Committee, talked about improvements made in 2001 including the new entrance on Madison Street, widening of the walkway near the east grandstand and the additional handicapped parking behind the south grandstand.

Mr. Johnson also told the group that in 2002 the Board plans to construct three new barns to replace older ones, erect an Owners Wall of Fame to pay tribute to owners of World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horses and to add new lighting in the mall area under the west grandstand.