Random Thoughts on Celebration 2007


By David L. Howard


Welcome to the 2007 Celebration


Ready or not it’s here…and it promises to be an interesting one.


Following a challenging year, entries are encouraging and enthusiasm is building as trainers and owners get ready for 11 days and 10 nights of non-stop action.  Entries totaled 4,197 with 24 classes being split compared to 29 splits and 4,914 pre-entries a year ago.


Show manager Ron Thomas commented, “After the issues of 2006, we expected a slight drop in total numbers, but it is extremely gratifying to post such a good number of entries.”


This will be the 69th renewal of this great championship horse show that pumps almost 40 million dollars into the Middle Tennessee economy and brings friends and strangers together for one of the most enjoyable sporting events in the country.


Three new World Grand Championship classes have been added this year including a Youth Trail Pleasure, Adults on Walking Ponies and Park Performance.  Additionally, two new classes for trainers 35 years of age and under received extremely strong support with 38 entries in one and 36 in the other.


Have a great time and do your part to make this a Celebration to remember!!!



USDA-Celebration Cooperation


In light of the events at last year’s Celebration, officials from the United States Department of Agriculture and The Celebration have been in constant communication.  Together, they have devised a plan designed to avoid the problems encountered last year.


Celebration CEO Ron Thomas and Board Chairman David Howard have visited with the USDA officials three times in Washington and the USDA recently came to The Celebration to iron out the plan’s details.  Dr. Chester Gipson was accompanied to Shelbyville by a security expert, a Veterinary Medical Officer and other USDA officials.  


The meetings have been very productive with the goal of eliminating the number of people allowed in both the inspection and the warm-up areas.  Also playing a prominent role in the planning has been Under Secretary Burton Eller and Dr. Ron Dehaven.


“We appreciate the efforts of the USDA, Dr. Gipson and Under Secretary Eller, in particular, for their guidance and help in implementing a plan for this year’s show,” said Chairman Howard.  “Their public statements about our changes and their private efforts to work closely with us have been most appreciated.”


Last week Dr. Gipson and the USDA released the following statement in support of The Celebration:


“USDA supports the actions initiated by the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration to ensure compliance with the Horse Protection Act.  Using a drug-screening program to detect the use of prohibited substances, placing emphasis on improper shoeing, conducting random inspections of the barn area and ensuring enforcement of the Tennessee Anti-Soring ordinance, are all measures that will protect the horses, as well as the integrity of the show.  We commend the Celebration’s management for their consultative and collaborative approach and commitment to having sound, clean horses in the show ring.  We hope that the standard set at this year’s Celebration will be adopted by other show managers.” 


Positive Press


There was a very complimentary article in last Sunday’s edition of the Nashville Tennessean about Shelbyville and the Celebration.  Unfortunately, it was in the Travel Section of the paper, not Sports.


Celebration CEO, Ron Thomas; Public Relations Director, Chip Walters; and Board Chairman, David Howard, met with the Tennessean Publisher, Editor, Sports Editor and the reporters assigned to the show recently to bring them up-to-date on the changes being implemented this season and at this year’s show.


The meeting was candid and productive and hopefully explained to the Tennessean the many positive strides being made by this industry and The Celebration


The Weather


Record temperatures and drought-like conditions have plagued Tennessee this summer and there appears to be no letup in sight for The Celebration.  It promises to make for some uncomfortable times for spectators and exhibitors, but the real focus must be on the health and safety of the horses.


It is encouraging seeing Celebration officials in consultation with the veterinarian community taking steps to deal with the heat.  While we all love workouts, I am confident the judges will use good sense in the manner in which they work the classes.


And, in case you have forgotten, two years ago, we were dealing with the disaster of Katrina and praying for our friends on the Gulf Coast.


Entry Refunds


The Celebration officially and completely announced a number of significant changes for the 2007 show two days after the deadline for entries.  Concern has been expressed in some quarters that this was not fair to exhibitors and the Celebration has taken steps to address that concern.


With that in mind, The Celebration will make refunds available for entries that were unaware of or are not completely comfortable with the changes.


Celebration Diehards


This will be my 43rd Celebration and I am a newcomer compared to some.  Drop me a note or see me at the show and let me know how many Celebrations you have attended.


From last year, I know Bob Cherry will be at his 53rd; Tommy Grider has missed one Celebration in the last 55 years.


New Rules for 2007


Terry Mann Lowman sent me a list of “New Rules for 2007” that are quite entertaining.  Over the next week, I will share some of them.


New Rule #1 – Stop giving me that pop-up ad for classmates.com.  There is a reason you don’t talk to people for 25 years.  Besides, I already know what the captain of the football team is doing—he is mowing my lawn every week.