SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – Veteran Celebration ringmaster Mark Farrar Sr., passed away on Tuesday morning following an extended illness. His 45-year career in center ring is the longest tenure of any Celebration ringmaster.

A native of Bedford County, he was the son of the late Jim and Virginia Dance Farrar. He was employed with the State of Tennessee Department of Agriculture. Farrar was a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin and a member of the University of Tennessee Alumni board. He was a member of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration Association and ringmaster for 43 years. He was a realtor with Tune & Company for many years and was more recently associated with Daniel and Neese Realty. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church where he served on the Church Council and was head usher. He was preceded in death by a sister, Nancy Ward.

Farrar is survived by his wife, Ann Tune Farrar of Shelbyville; two sons, Mark Farrar Jr. of Shelbyville and Jeff Farrar of Jackson, Miss.; a daughter, Mary Elizabeth (Matthew) Gillespie of Murfreesboro; two brothers, Joe Farrar of Shelbyville and Jimmy Farrar of Tullahoma; two sisters, Martha Sue Erving of Tullahoma and Mary Farrar of Birmingham, Ala.

“Mark’s presence in center ring will certainly be missed,” said Celebration CEO Ron Thomas. He was a steady influence for all of our ringmasters. He has been part of The Celebration for six different decades and was as good at his job as anyone has ever been at our show. Mark added a level of Esprit de Corps to our group of ringmasters. Most of all, we will miss his friendship.”

Farrar began his career as a ringmaster in 1959 and has been part of the center ring staff ever since. Prior to that, the Flat Creek native was touched by the Celebration when show secretary Gillie Orr would stay at the Farrar home while putting the show together.

In an interview for the 2003 Blue Ribbon Yearbook, Mark recalled that his most memorable Celebration memory came in 1969.

“That was a significant year,” said Farrar. “That’s the night the lights went out and you just did the best you could to keep your judge dry. I was working with Steve Hill that night and the rain was so hard that you couldn’t see the numbers. He would call out rider names and I would have to go look up the numbers when I turned the card in.”

The Celebration played a major role in the life of Mark Farrar Sr. He met his wife Ann while working in center ring and has shared center ring duties with children Mark Jr. and Mary Elizabeth. Most recently, the elder Farrar received the uplifting news that his son Jeff had passed the bar exam in Mississippi and was embarking on a career in law.

“Seeing Mark in center ring was as much of a tradition as The Celebration itself,” relayed Celebration Board Chairman Pat Marsh. “Loyal and professional don’t tell quite enough about Mark Farrar. He was a true gentleman; courageous and strong. While it is a tough time for Ann and the kids, we will only have the most positive memories of Mark and the life he so richly lived.”

Visitation is scheduled from 4-8 p.m. Wednesday at Feldhaus Memorial Chapel in Shelbyville with funeral services taking place Thursday at 2:00 p.m. at First Methodist Church in Shelbyville.