by Harolene Willis

Posted June 3, 2002

SHELBYVILLE, Tennessee - The last week in May - what a fun time in Shelbyville, Tennessee. This year’s 32nd Annual Spring Fun Show was no exception. The week was one of celebration beginning with the dedication of the Owners’ Wall in the Celebration Plaza on Wednesday afternoon. The wall lists all of the Celebration World Grand Champions and their owners. It is an impressive sight with the names deeply etched in the sand colored marble.

Wednesday evening eighteen new members were inducted into the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration Hall of Fame with over 350 in attendance. This brings the total membership in the Hall of Fame to 127. The gala event was held in the Calsonic Arena. This induction was the first since 1999.

A large crowd of spectators was present each night of the show to see championship walking horses - a preview of what they can expect to see at this year’s Celebration. Mother Nature cooperated and sent beautiful weather - mild temperatures and no rain.

Virgil Johnson, Celebration Board Chairman, stated, “We thank those who supported us for this year’s show. Although, we were surprised that the number of entries was not higher, we are very grateful for a fine horse show. The challenges that have plagued the industry for the past couple of years in the inspection area were not a problem at this year’s show. We had full cooperation with the DQPs, the VMOs, and the USDA.”

The United States Department of Agriculture, Veterinary Medical Officers for this year’s show were Lynn Bourgeois and Jeanne Kjos. They were accompanied by two investigators, Aldean Valentine and Dan Boyer, and by Ralph Ayers, who served as videographer. The Designated Qualified Persons for the National Horse Show Commission affiliated show were Mark Thomas, Charles Thomas, and John Wilson.

Lonnie Messick, Director of Animal Welfare/DQP Services at NHSC, stated that the “horse show was great - a good show.” Ten tickets were written and none of those were scar rule violations. Thursday night, 157 horses were presented for inspection and there were four violations; Friday night, 155 horses were presented with five violations; Saturday night, 166 entries were presented and there was one violation. Messick stated that there were ten violations this year compared to 16 last year. There were no conflict resolution situations with the VMOs. According to Messick, there was good communication between the DQPS and the VMOs. Messick commends the DQPs for an outstanding job and commends the trainers and exhibitors for presenting horses in really good condition.

This year’s Spring Fun Show hosted 47 classes showcasing the versatility of the Tennessee Walking Horse. Four-hundred seventy-seven horses entered the ring to be evaluated by the judging panel of Bill Cantrell, Ray Gilmer, and Bobby Richards.

Each evening’s performance began with Old Glory - our nation’s symbol of freedom and independence - being presented by Bud Seaton and Snow On The Mountain.

Saturday night, the stake class was eagerly anticipated and was no disappointment as five outstanding duos entered the Calsonic Arena: Bill Bobo and Stride’s Touch of Pride; Steve Dunn and Out On Parole; Joe Fleming and Push Me Bold; Larry Edwards and Private Charter; Chad Baucom and Pushover’s My Papa. Before the cards were marked the thrilled audience was on its feet cheering for their favorites. The winning spotlight fell on Steve Dunn and Out On Parole for the Randall Baskin family with a unanimous decision from the judges. The reserve tie went to Joe Fleming and Push Me Bold for Donald and Gladys Stephens.

Ron Thomas, Executive Director of the Celebration, stated, “We are most grateful for the people who did support the Fun Show. We are disappointed that we can’t get the numbers back to a level that the Fun Show deserves. The weather was wonderful, an excellent inspection process with DQPs and VMOs, and a judging panel that did a really good job. Maybe we should reevaluate and decide that the Fun Show will not reach the level of the ‘90s and then make a decision on its future.”

Most of those in attendance - spectators and exhibitors - agree that this Fun Show was a vision of the future and the past. We saw past World Champions compete and we saw future World Champions. We got a glimpse into what that last week in August will have in store for us and we know what an exciting and thrilled-packed Celebration we have to look forward to.