Annual Dinner Given In Appreciation of Staff and Volunteers

by Ashlea Wheelon

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration hosted its annual Appreciation Dinner in honor of the many staff members and volunteers who make the Celebration such a special event. The 2008 version of the dinner took on a different “theme” as new Chief Executive Officer Doyle Meadows hosted a casual barbecue dinner at the Calsonic Arena.

Meadows gave the opening remarks as well as the reflections on 2008 since Chairman of the Board David Howard was unable to attend because of illness. Meadows thanked the staff for being such a positive face on the Celebration. “You are the face of the Celebration, not me,” said Meadows. “You are the reason our customers continue to come back to the Celebration.”

Meadows also addressed the tough decisions he has been forced to make in the wake of the trying economic times the country is currently enduring. “I have been forced to make some very tough decisions, decisions that I don’t like to make, but I don’t apologize for having to make those decisions. I am proud that these decisions will allow the Celebration to continue to be the heartbeat of this community and provide support to the walking horse community,” said Meadows.

Incoming Chairman of the Board Charles McDonald also addressed the many in attendance and spoke of his new position. “You don’t know how humbled I am to be introduced as the new Chairman of the Board of the Celebration,” said McDonald. In introducing McDonald, Meadows quoted board member Jim Allison: “Charles McDonald loves the Celebration.”

McDonald referenced the challenges facing the Celebration regarding reduced attendance, rising costs and negative press of the Tennessee Walking Horse. McDonald described the walking horse as “it is the most tried and true animal we have ever seen.”

Meadows and McDonald spoke to the tradition and historical significance of the Celebration and the commitment to continue and build upon that tradition. The Celebration is the longest running continuous event in the state of Tennessee, enjoying its 70th anniversary in 2008.

Virgil Johnson received the Celebration Ambassador award from past Chairman John T. Bobo for his many years of service to the Celebration. Johnson served on the Board of Directors at the Celebration and most recently served as interim CEO before the hiring of Meadows. “I can’t thank Virgil enough for what he has meant to me. He didn’t just baby-sit the Celebration, he moved it forward in the time before my hire and has been a tremendous asset to me in my job,” said Meadows. “You are a great friend and I appreciate you,” he said to Johnson.