SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – Celebration CEO Ron Thomas announced that the judging panel for the 65th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration has been selected. The group includes Laura Brandon of Franklin, Tenn., Jamie Hankins of Paris, Ky., Paul Watlington of Maryville, Tenn., Gene Carswell of Morehead, Ky., and Mike Carpenter of Franklin, Tenn.

This veteran panel already has 12 Celebrations on its resume.

"This is a highly-qualified panel," said Celebration board chairman Pat Marsh. "We feel very honored that each has agreed to serve as a judge during our show."

While the group as a whole can easily be considered an experienced panel, two of the judges will be making their first appearance in center ring. Laura Brandon and Paul Watlington, while neither are strangers to the Celebration, will be judging for the first time.

Carpenter has the most experience adjudicating the world championship show of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed with seven Celebration appearances. His first came in 1992 and his most recent was in 2001.

Jamie Hankins has three Celebration judging stints on his dossier. They were in 1994, 1996 and 2001.

Gene "Smokey" Carswell has been a Celebration judge twice; 1995 and 2000.

"This is a terrific mix of veterans and newer judges," said Celebration CEO Ron Thomas. "We always like to bring new judges into the mix and let them work with those who have been in the fishbowl before."

The Celebration Judges Committee selects the panel. Boards of directors of six different groups are written for their opinion. Their responses are studied carefully by the TWHNC Judges Committee. Many factors are looked at, including past experience, their ability with performance and pleasure horses, geographic issues, etc.

"We want the input of the groups within the industry to help us make the most informed decision possible," relayed Thomas. "I was a little disappointed this year with the amount of response and input we received. There are a lot of up and coming judges from all parts of the country and we can’t evaluate them all personally. We need the input of the other organizations to put the best possible panel together that a world championship horse show deserves. With that in mind, I’m very comfortable with the group that was selected. They all have a grasp on the enormity of the show and how each and every class should be handled."

The 65th Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration runs from August 20-30 at the historic Celebration Grounds in Shelbyville, Tenn. For more information on this year’s show, call the Celebration office or the Celebration’s official website.