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Using his voice; Farrar's talents reach far beyond center ring



by Sadie Fowler

There are many aspects beyond the horses that give the Celebration the pageantry, tradition and prestige for which it has been known and loved for 81 years. Whether it’s the friendships folks have made — some of which have become life-long — or the donuts, the biscuits, the organ or those chill bumps evoked when Counterfeit Dollar enters the ring to present the flag, or the National Anthem … it’s fair to say that it’s all those little extras — little to do with actual horses— that collectively come together to form the grandiose and one-of-a-kind event for which it is known. Yes, there are many little components that come together and add up to what we call “The Horse Show.”

Yes, there’s lots of extras and sure, the event would survive without any given one of them; but it’s the collective sum of all those parts that make our event a true Celebration.

However, there is one component we couldn’t do without. It’s the component that perhaps holds it all together; keeps it all flowing and one we’d all notice immediately if it were missing.

THE LEAD VOCAL

Besides the horses — the stars of the show who bring us all together to enjoy “all the little extras” — there is perhaps one component to the collective whole that we literally could not walk on without. What is it?

The comfort of his upbeat voice that lets us know it’s show time, or that it’s time to pick out a favorite and let them know it as they walk on in quest of a world grand championship, or simply that voice that’s an expert in off -the-cuff speaking to ensure the show moves efficiently and the crowd is always entertained.

If you haven’t guessed yet, the description above is in reference to the announcer, one of the most integral parts of the show that not only is a “must” in order for the show to go on, but it’s also the role that can truly make a huge difference in everyone’s overall experience. It’s a component we literally can’t not have.

THE BEST OF THE CELEBRATION

At the Celebration, there have been some of the very best announcers in the business over the years, and that without question includes the voice with whom we are all familiar at this very moment — Mark Farrar.

Everyone knows Mark Farrar, but do they really?

The reality is that most of us know Mark Farrar, the announcer. As horse show fans, we all know Farrar’s friendly, cheerful and charismatic voice that ensures we stay informed and also have a great time each night at the Celebration.

Farrar has become so welcomed and familiar that he’s seemingly a friend to us all. A master of his craft, he makes it all look effortless. One would assume he’s able to do that because he is a seasoned professional who has honed in on and perfected his skillset over the years.

After all, Farrar is a professional announcer and it is his job to be good at all those things, right?

But what if you learned that the announcing gig was just a little side job? What if you learned that our current Celebration announcer basically dutifully performs in his role each night more out of pleasure and respect for tradition than necessity … all because of his loyal commitment to the community, the horse and the Celebration.

HE WON'T QUIT HIS DAY JOB

So we all know Farrar as the awesome announcer that he is, but what many of us don’t know is that there are many layers about him that make him a truly unique and one-of-a-kind asset to our team.

On the short list of those many things, many show goers might be surprised to learn that “announcing” is not Farrar’s full-time job. In fact, he has a “day job” and a big one at that. Since 1999 he has worked in association management and currently runs Farrar Management, which manages four non-profit associations.

In addition to being very successful in his professional endeavors with Farrar Management, there are many more interesting layers to Farrar that many Celebration goers would be surprised to know. For instance, did you know that Farrar also announces for several other breed shows including American Saddlebreds and Morgans?

In fact, he’s become so good at his side gig craft that he announces for the Morgan Grand National, that breed’s version of the Celebration, and some of the biggest and most prestigious shows for the Saddlebreds as well, including the Lexington Junior League.

TOP FORTY UNDER 40

Prior to joining the non-profit world, he published a newspaper and served as the public relations director at Consolidated Utility District in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In 2010 the Nashville Business Journal named him as one of the “Top Forty Under 40” business leaders in Nashville.

Being the mover and shaker that he is, many might be surprised to learn that it’s not the big city that attracts Farrar at the end of the day. Instead, he prefers to live in the quiet countryside; a place where he can relax, do a little beef farming, a little gardening, enjoy the company of friends, and cook like nobody’s business.

Yes, those who truly know Farrar will tell you that a quiet and simple life on the family farm is exactly where Mark Farrar wants to be, and interestingly enough, that farm happens to be located in Flat Creek, a small town just a few miles down the road from Bedford County if you’re headed toward Lynchburg.

DEEP CELEBRATION ROOTS

Friends and family mean the world to Farrar, and perhaps the most interesting little factoid about Mark Farrar that many folks don’t realize is that he is part of a family with deep roots to the event — very deep. In fact, Farrar’s family, a local family, has been part of the Celebration since its inception.

“My grandfather Bill Tune won the Five-Gaited Pony class and my other grandfather, Jim Farrar, won the Weanling class at the first Celebration,” Farrar said.

Better yet, his great-grandfather, Clyde Tune, was one of four founders of the Celebration, and Mark says he thinks he was even the chairman of the board when he died. Later, his grandfather (Bill) became the first executive director until Ron Thomas came into the position.

The Farrar family is one with roots as deep as they are wide in Bedford County so it makes total sense that Mark grew up with the Celebration a part of the family’s annual tradition.

Not only did both of his grandparents show at that very first event in 1939, but Mark says the event was a huge part of his upbringing. His father was even a ringmaster — everyone in the family played their role at the Celebration.

HE'S DONE IT ALL

Many years before getting hired as the announcer, Mark showed up for work on the Celebration grounds in various different roles over the course of time. Through the years he’s worked in the Barn Office, Entry Office, Maintenance, Presentation Coordinator, Ring Escort, and even on the crew that cleaned the stadium after the show.

A perhaps fateful moment occurred when Mark was 15 that led to where we see him today, in center ring. His grandfather drove him to a 4-H show that was being held in the warmup ring on the Celebration grounds and Doyle Meadows happened to be there.

“He asked me if I would help judge at a regional show at MTSU and it grew from there,” he said. “He got me those gigs.”

In time, other legendary announcers were key in recommending Mark for jobs when they couldn’t do them, and as they say, the rest is history. Now, Mark has been announcing and managing horse shows for 30 years, and his roster has grown to over 20 shows each year across the nation.

Some of the shows which have been on his announcing resume the longest include the Saddlebred Pro-Am Benefit Classic Horse Show and UPHA Chapter 14 Spring Premier, the Morgan Grand National and World Championship Horse Show, Big D Charity Horse Show, Germantown Charity Horse Show, Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show, and the Tanbark Cavalcade of Roses … and, of course, the Celebration.

 

CELEBRATION PRESTIGE

Of all the shows he does, the Celebration still holds the most special place in his heart and remains the most prestigious gig of all.

“There’s a lot of pressure at the Celebration to make every moment count because it is such a big deal to be showing there,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t deliver and sometimes I do…”

Of course, most will agree that Mark always delivers. He keeps the show moving and prevents things from dragging. He livens up the crowd and keeps them there when there’s a high note, and lifts it on a low note.

“It can be tough at times,” he said, pointing to one time there was only one entry in what was supposed to be the climax of the show. “You just have to roll with it … In that case, I think I said something (to the crowd) like, ‘No matter if there’s one or 15, we love our horse and this is not time to give up … Let’s show the world that we’re proud of our horse!”

Yes, that off-the-cuff charm and charisma has lifted us when we needed lifting, celebrated, energized, and most certainly delivered at every stage in the game.

As he reflects today, it’s abundantly clear that the Celebration is, and always has been, a treasure that Mark Farrar holds near and dear to his heart. “Ever since I was a kid, I get an intense level of excitement about the Celebration beginning when I see the first ‘Welcome Visitors’ signs go up,” he said. “I drive through the show grounds almost every day leading up to the show and absorb all the anticipation and excitement. I try to bring that excitement with me every night when I announce.”

MEET MARK FARRAR

Mark Farrar of Shelbyville, Tennessee is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in Mass Communications/Public Relations and a minor in Advertising. Since 1999 he has worked in association management and currently runs Farrar Management, which manages four non-profit associations — the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South, the Sunbelt Promotional Products Association, the American Advertising Federation of Nashville, and the Gold Coast Promotional Products Association.

He manages the day-to-day operations of the associations, including their tradeshows, awards programs, and continuing education. He is also responsible for recruiting sponsors for their events and managing the membership development efforts.

During his tenure all three organizations have seen steady growth in programs, memberships, and sponsorships. Prior to joining the non-profit world, he published a newspaper and served as the public relations director at Consolidated Utility District in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

In 2010 the Nashville Business Journal named him as one of the “Top Forty Under 40” business leaders in Nashville. Mark is the immediate past president of the Tennessee Society of Association Executives and treasurer of the Rosebank Cemetery Board of Trustees. On the weekends, Mark can be found on his family’s
farm and as the announcer at horse shows across the country.

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