SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – It’s one of those little things that people see and say, “I guess that makes it official.”

That’s the case with Gallery of World Grand Champions sign underneath the West Grandstands at the Celebration Arena in Shelbyville, TN.  Once it gets updated with the name of the new World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse, then it seems “official.”

“That sign, or a version of it, has been updated every year since the show moved to this site,” said Celebration CEO Dr. Doyle Meadows. “And it is a big day when the new champion’s name goes up on it.”

In a new twist, World Grand Champion rider Link Webb actually put in the screws that added his mount’s name to the list of immortals in Tennessee Walking Horse history.

“I’ve walked underneath the west grandstand and read those names a million times,” said Webb.  “I never imagined I’d have a horse up there, but when you see it writing, it starts to sink in what we accomplished.”

Santana’s El Nino had his nameplate added to the 68 previous champions by Cascade Screen display, a sign company from nearby Wartrace that updates that and many other signs on the Celebration Grounds every year.

“It’s almost like the jockey’s colors being painted on the weathervane at the Preakness,” added Meadows.  “It’s just one more piece of tradition we’re very proud of here at The Celebration.”

Actually, two plates are added to the sign each year.  The first one contains the new champion’s name and another with an imposing question mark, asking the question, “Who will replace the “?” in 2009.  We’ll have to wait until September 5th to find out.