There’s nothing quite like a cool breeze blowing through the historic big oval just a few minutes before show time at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. The big orange Kubota tractor is making the last few passes over the track to make sure it’s perfect for an evening of competition, all of the center ring staff begins to gather and make sure final preparations are being made and the horse show fans are gathering in the stands getting ready for what should be an outstanding evening of competition. The 14 class schedule gets underway with the Youth 11 & Under on Walking Geldings, then heats up a few classes later with two sections of Three-Year-Old Stallions, then rounds out with the Youth 14 & Under on Walking Ponies, Four-Year-Old Walking Geldings and Open Show Pleasure Mares &d Geldings. Of course, there will be some great classes in between as well.

The judges for the 75th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration include Rollie Beard of Lewisburg, Tenn., Derek Bonner of Mooresboro, N.C., Jamie Bradshaw of Union Grove, Ala., Allen Foreman of Thomson, Ga., and Leigh Stuart of Alvaton, Ky.

Promptly at 7 p.m., as always, the gates swung open, evening announcer Bobby Sands welcomed the crowd and the opening ceremonies got underway. We once again had Ranger T. Walker and Ernie Brubaker from the Bedford County Sherriff’s Department Mounted Patrol carrying the flag, in place of Counterfeit Dollar, who suffered a mild injury earlier in the week. The invocation for the evening was given by Pastor Ron DeWitt of First Church of the Nazarene of Shelbyville, Tenn., followed by the singing of the National Anthem by Jennifer Vannatta-Hall of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Up first on the Friday evening schedule was class 46, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-11 Years on Walking Geldings. Nine of the 11 with reservations made their way down the hill to show off for the Friday Night crowd that was still growing as fans continued to make their way to their seats. Judge Rollie Beard served as call judge for the first class of the night. Topping the class with an outstanding performance, and a name very appropriate considering the skies around Shelbyville right now, was A Cloudy Sky and Nathan Oliver riding for Darrell Oliver of Bowling Green, Ky. With this win, coupled with a win in the same division in 2011, the team retired the Delight’s Sundance Challenge Trophy and the Sherra Elizabeth Burgess Memorial Challenge Trophy. This memorable win was preceded with 2013 wins at the National Trainers’ Show, the Spring Fun Show, Columbia Spring Jubilee and the Money Tree Classic. Reserve in the good class was The American General and owner/exhibitor Sellers Veazey taking the honors back to Tifton, Ga. I’m A Hustler and Jayden Jackson was third riding for Jack Heffington of Shelbyville, Tenn.

The trainers were on the track for class 47, Two-Year-Old Walking Geldings (Riders’ Cup) with five of the 10 expected making the call to work for Derek Bonner and his panel. Showing off their winning moves to gain the approval of the judges and the crowd was Tony Tango and Charlie Green up for Bill and Karen Bean of Tomball, Texas. This made this duo’s fourth blue of the 2013 season. The Phenom and Justin Harris pulled into the second position for Bruce and Robin MacDonald of Atlanta, Ga. Live Strong and Clay Sanderson rounded out the top three riding for Robert Taylor and Grey Barker of Pearl, Miss., and Murfreesboro, Tenn.

A much anticipated class was up next on the evening’s schedule. Class 48 featured the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses, Riders 70 Years & Over. This is a great class to demonstrate the easy going, docile nature of the Tennessee Walking Horse, as it is a horse that someone in their 70’s, 80’s, or even 90’s can continue to show and find success. Thirteen entries made the call to work as Jamie Bradshaw called the gaits in the class. This class certainly didn’t let anyone down. These riders still know how to put on a show and each and every one did just that tonight. But only one could win the blue and that blue went to a familiar face, Dr. W.H. Hill and Kudos For Cash. Now, if you’re not aware, Dr. Hill is just a little past 70, he’s in his 90’s . . .94, if this reporter is not badly mistaken and still riding in high style. This is the third consecutive year that Dr. Hill has won this class with Kudos For Cash and he won the class in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 on Cash’s All Star. Reserve honors in the class went to Ritz’s Big Dipper and Heidi McWilliams riding for McWilliams Farm/Jim and Heidi McWilliams of Cookeville, Tenn. Lined With Poison and Lucky Collins pulled into the third position for Don and Lucky Collins of Bell Buckle, Tenn.

Class 49 brought the Lite-Shod Walking Horses (Riders’ Cup) to the track with six of the 11 programmed entries making the call to work as Allen Foreman called the gaits in the class. Taking home top honors in the class was the team of Honor My Cash and Jamey Thompson riding for Rebecca Emerick of Hillsborough, Calif. This duo topped this class in 2011 and was also the 2011 Lite-Shod World Grand Champion. A Mountain Jazz and Patrick Thomas collected the red streamers for Jim and Debbie Nichols of New Market, Tenn. La Patrona and Joe Lester was third for Kesselring, Lowe and Lester of Montverde, Fla., and Shelbyville, Tenn.

Class 50A, brought the Three-Year-Old Stallions to the big oval, another one of the highlights of the evening. Eight of the 16 with reservations answered the gate call to work for and excite the Friday evening crowd as Leigh Stuart called the gaits for the “A” section. Riding away with the win in the exciting class was The Bourne Legacy and Bill Callaway riding for Trish Harrison Spivey of Morristown, Tenn. This duo captured top honors in 2013 at the Gallatin Lions Club Horse Show, the FAST Summer Showcase, the Pulaski, Tenn. Horse Show and a strong reserve at the Tony Rice Horse Show. Gretzky and Chad Williams rode into the reserve position for ThorSport, Inc. of Sandusky, Ohio. Jimmer Fredette and Dale Watts rounded out the top three in the class for Carole Baxter of Alexandria, La.

Three-Year-Old Stallions, class 50B, brought 12 of the 16 expected down the hill to show their very best for the fired up crowd. Judge Rollie Beard served as call judge for the section. Well, this class proved to be a “brother” act as John Allan Callaway made the winning performance in this section with Border Run riding for Bud Moore of Catherine, Ala. This team preceded this win with blue ribbon performances and the Liberty Lions Club Horse Show and the Woodbury Lions Club Horse Show. Announcer Bobby Sands asked the question about brothers that have won both splits of a class and while awaiting word from Larry and Gary Edwards, since it was thought they would be the leading contenders, Allan Callaway advised that Bill and John Allan had won both sections of the Three-Year-Old Mare class three years ago, so it has been done at least once and probably before, but quite an accomplishment indeed. I’d say this will make things even more interesting for Thursday night’s World Grand Championship event! Gin’s Black Magic and Gary Edwards were reserve in the class for Herb Murrath of Stone Mountain, Ga. King’s Kode Blue and Justin Harris collected third for Enfinger, Williamson and Weaver of Dothan, Ala., and Shelbyville, Tenn.

The professional trainers stayed on center stage for class 51, Park Performance Walking Horses, Four Years & Under (Riders’ Cup). Eleven of the 13 expected took the rail to work as Derek Bonner called the gaits. Link Webb and Santana’s Storm Warning, 2013 champions at the Woodbury Lions Club Horse Show, made the winning ride in the division for Michael and Ann Jones of Lafayette, Ga. My Titleist and Jack Way collected the red streamers for Hannah and Taylor of Pearl, Miss. Master Of Encore and Patrick Thomas were third for Tess Suiter of Clarksville, Tenn.

The young riders were back for class 52, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-14 Years on Walking Ponies. Eight of the 12 on the official Lions Club program worked their way down the hill and took the rail to show for their chance in the winner’s circle. Judge Jamie Bradshaw led the panel in the class. Getting in the zone to make a great performance and walk away with the unanimous win was the team of Mark Zone and Lane Webb up for Lora Lawrence and Lane Webb of Jackson and Lewisburg, Tenn. This was Lane’s second blue of the day as he topped the Youth 6-17 Park Performance class during the Friday Morning performance on Avenger’s Lady Threat. Announcer Bobby Sands noted that we had brothers winning back-to-back classes earlier (Bill and John Allan Callaway) and now, we had father and son win back to back classes. Certainly good Celebration trivia that one might need to pull out sometime for sure. Reserve honors went to another young person who captured a blue this morning, WhitLei Green, riding A Shady Character for Holly Thrasher and WhitLei Green of Bethpage and Shelbyville, Tenn. She found success this morning in the Trail Pleasure division with I’m King Bee. All Loud N Proud and Jerrod Childers rounded out the top of the class for Gerald Childers of Somerset, Ky.

We had the Senior riders earlier tonight and class 53 featured the Senior horses, Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses, Classic Horses 15 Years & Over. Ten of the 13 expected worked their way to the track to show that Tennessee Walking Horses can still show and be successful at most any age as Allen Foreman called the gaits. Riding to the winner’s circle in the event was a horse who proves almost every week that he can still show just as good as any of the rest, John FK’s Pusher and Robin MacDonald making the winning ride for Bruce and Robin MacDonald of Atlanta, Ga. Another old pro, Private Charter and Sarah Compton rode to the second position for Rick Compton of North Tazewell, Va. I’m Splashed and Lindsey Landrum rounded out the top three for Hillview Promotions, LLC of Tupelo, Miss.

Class 54 brought the Elite Owner-Amateur Gentleman Riders on Walking Mares or Geldings to the track with nine of the 17 expected to work for Leigh Stuart and her fellow judges. Making the winning performance for the second consecutive year and collecting their sixth win of the 2013 season was Trouble On The Line and Dr. Tom Morgan up for Hannah McCurdy of Piedmont, Ala. She’s Intimidating and Jack Bolosky were reserve for Jack and Lillian Bolosky of Chesterfield, Mo. Beretta Mama and owner/exhibitor Kerry DeArmond were third taking honors back to Greer, S.C.

The professional trainers were back on the track for class 55, Four-Year-Old Walking Geldings (Canter) (Riders’ Cup) with two of the six with reservations taking the rail for the two horse workout as Rollie Beard served as call judge. Capturing the blue with a unanimous decision of the panel was the reigning Three-Year-Old Gelding World Champion, Sweetener and Clay Sanderson up for Bobby Belew of Lawrenceburg, Tenn. Line Up and Ernest Upton were reserve riding for Gayle Holcomb and Nick Masters of Marina Del Ray, Calif., and Shelbyville, Tenn.

The pleasure division was highlighted next on the schedule for class 56, Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Pleasure Walking Horses with nine of the 18 programmed entries making the call to show as Derek Bonner called the gaits. Taking the top honors back to the west coast was Hello I’m Johnny Cash and Sherri Pollack riding for S & P Farms of Saratoga, Calif., and Shelbyville, Tenn. Yao Ming and owner/exhibitor Nicole Coffey of Lewisburg, Tenn., captured the red streamers. Tijuana Tex and Darden Gladney were third riding for Gladney Farms of Homer, La.

Class 57 brought the Owner-Amateur Lady Riders on Walking Mares down the hill to show for the Friday Night crowd that seemed to be holding on strong as the time past 10 p.m. Nine of the 23 on the books made the trip down to present their very best as Jamie Bradshaw led the panel in the next to the last class of the evening. Topping the division and picking up their fifth blue of 2013 was A Private Benjamin and owner/exhibitor Detha Broom-Yoder of Ooltewah, Tenn. Silver Shiraz and owner/exhibitor Carol Canerday of Singer, La., pulled into the reserve position. Ms. Jose Walks and owner/exhibitor Sister Milligan of Panama City, Fla., collected the yellow streamers.

Show Pleasure Walking Mares or Geldings (Riders’ Cup), class 58, rounded out the evening performance with the largest class of the evening. Seventeen of the 22 expected made the gate call to work as Allen Foreman served as call judge. Making the turn out of the line-up and heading down victory lane for the last time tonight was Turnbow and Russ Thompson up for Roger Emerick of Hillsborough, Calif. Hello Hello and Dale Watts were reserve for Deborah Williams of Argyle, Texas. Sky Jam and Bill Callaway rounded out the top three in the large class for Bud Moore of Catherine, Ala.

With a final victory pass by Turnbow and Russ Thompson, the Friday Night performance of the 75th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was complete and what a great night it was! Last evening, one barn, Baucom Stables of Monroe, N.C., had a great night winning five blues. Tonight, the winning was more spread out with nine different barns scoring a Celebration win tonight and no barn winning more than two (Carl Edwards & Sons Stables, Russ Thompson Stables, Allan Callaway Stables, Webb Stables, Joe Fleming Stables each had two wins, while Wright Stables, Charlie Green Stables, Phillip Trimble Stables and Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch each had one win).

While tonight’s performance was great, Saturday night promises to be even better as we will get our first look at the Aged Stallions and see what we can expect for the World Grand Championship class next Saturday night. It will certainly be a night not to be missed!